Homegrown: Weeping Norway spruce

Hi. I love picea abies “pendula” or weeping Norway spruce. Will it do well in Fruita?


— Susan

Weeping Norway spruce isn’t a particularly common plant here in western Colorado. There are a couple reasons for this.

The first is the look.

Weeping Norway spruce forms a narrow, upright tree with strongly weeping branches. The branches descend vertically and have a slight outward curve at the tips.

The tree is pretty slow growing around here and should eventually reach a size of 10–15 feet tall with a spread that will vary from 5–12 feet.

The branches are clothed with attractive medium-green needles.

The strongly weeping branches with those irregularly curving tips remind many people of something you’d find in a Dr. Seuss book.

That somewhat wild growth habit just isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

Personally, I’m with you. I think it makes a striking and very interesting specimen.

The second reason you don’t see too many of these trees is our climate.

Although weeping Norway spruce is exceptionally cold hardy (it’ll take 45 degrees below zero), it prefers a cooler, more humid environment than what we have.

They can be grown here, but you will need to do some planning and preparation.

The most important thing you can do is to put the tree where it’ll get a bit of shade, especially in the afternoon. The needles can burn (especially when it’s young) if it gets too much hot, direct, unrelieved sunshine.

I’d also try to plant the tree in a spot that is surrounded by other plants. This will help raise the humidity a bit which the tree will appreciate.

You also want to do a good job amending the soil before planting the tree. Like most spruce, the tree prefers a well-drained and well-aerated soil with good water-holding capacity and regular watering. Mixing in a good amount of decomposed organic matter will usually do the trick.

I have an almond tree and a cherry tree that are each a year old. How should I prune them? Will I need to spray for insects?

Thank you.

— Flo

First let’s talk about the difference between “training” and “pruning” your trees.

As they’re pretty young, you may actually need to be training them right now. Though there’s pruning involved, training is very different from the annual pruning we do with fruit trees.

Training is simply establishing the basic framework of the plant. The framework will differ from yard to yard depending on the needs of each person.

Some people want a single trunk with the branches up high enough to walk and mow under.

For other people, the aim is to keep the plant shorter so it’s easier to pick, spray, and prune.

This process is hard to explain in words, but my best advice is to check out any number of books which describe and illustrate the process.

Annual pruning is completely different.

As the name implies, this is a pruning done early each year that’s meant to optimize fruit yield. Different types of fruit trees will require different annual pruning techniques.

Again, you’re best off to check out a book or other written information which will show you how to do it.

Likewise, you’ll need to spray different chemicals at different times to treat the various insects you want to avoid.

Your almond and cherry trees need to be protected against peach tree borer, and your cherry tree should be treated for the cherry fruit fly.

Again, your best bet is to do some reading and/or talk with knowledgeable folks who are happy to help you with whatever information you need.

We do have gardening guides available at the nursery that would help to answer some of these questions.

Dennis Hill is the nursery manager at Bookcliff Gardens, online at http://www.bookcliffgardens.com. Send questions to Bookcliff Gardens, 755 26 Road, Grand Junction 81506; or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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