Friday, March 31, 2006

What I Think of Norway Spruce

I grew up in the land of evergreen trees; deciduous trees were almost a rarity. The conifers were such an ever present backdrop that I neglected to notice them. I took it for granted that the hills were always a sea of green. This is in sharp contrast to my new home, where winter brings naked trees and brown vistas. The dark conifers planted around homes stand out from the leafless wilds. In a place where the land looks dead for five months of the year, winter interest is all the rage.

The spotlight on evergreens has caused me to cast a critical eye on the plants I’ve always ignored. By and large, the evergreens planted around homes and in parks are terribly ugly. Some of the eyesores can be attributed to botched (or no) pruning, but others are just ungraceful plants. One of the worst offenders is the Norway Spruce.

The Norway Spruce is planted for its fast growth and screening properties. Its thickly interlaced branches provide a wind and sight barrier. I’ve also been told that they provide valuable wildlife habitat. We have two of these beauties planted in our front yard, and more along the sides.

For all its virtues (and our aged trees magnificent height), I can’t help but find fault with the tree’s ragged appearance. The spruce looks as if it were suffering, with its drooping, tattered branches. It behaves in an almost petulant manner, flinging branches, needles, and cones in fits of fury. It creates such dense shade and has such vigorous, shallow roots, that little can survive beneath it. It’s an ugly tree, casting an ugly, barren shadow over the landscape.

The situation is made even worse by poor siting and a lack of pruning. I’ve seen entire houses consumed by these monsters, planted only 10 feet away from the residence. Whole front lawns are made impassable by the reaching, sagging limbs. I’m tempted to carry a pruning saw in my car and make stealthy stops to liberate homes from the tree’s deathly embrace.

Mike and I have done some aggressive pruning of our own two trees, both to improve the view and light and to allow traffic on the sidewalk and street. However, as unattractive as I may find them, the trees will not be cut down. Their imposing presence creates a privacy we treasure in our front yard. I’m learning to garden between the snake-like roots with plants that can tolerate root competition. The grass simply doesn’t have a chance and is being replaced with woodland plants.

While I wouldn’t kill our Norway Spruce, you couldn’t pay me enough to plant a new one in my yard. There are far too many lovely trees, even conifers, that I would prefer to the beasts. Magnolia, dogwood, redbud, laburnum, hemlock, pine (especially Jeffrey pine), yellowwood, and the endless varieties of Prunus top my list of trees. Spare me the ugly trees.


Blogger kitschywoman said...

I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one who has a dislike for conifers. Blech. I'll take ornamental grasses any day for "winter interest." Even though they're a pain to clean up after every spring.

5:33 AM  
Blogger Dave and Holly said...

Something to remember about these giants is that they have played a huge part in art history. Norway spruce was used in Stradivari's top wood, and the resin was used for his varnish. This helps me like them quite a bit!

9:02 PM  

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