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Gardening Answers Knowledgebase

Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Conifers, Prunus padus, Styrax, Laburnum, Davidia, Ribes, Larix, Chamaecyparis, Picea, Tsuga, Cedrus, Fagus, Betula, Flowering trees, Pinus, Ericaceae (Heath family)

Are there any lists of shrubs/small trees that are best viewed from below, such as Styrax or Halesia?


While there are no lists of shrubs/small trees best viewed from below, there is a list of trees with weeping habits in The Pacific Northwest Gardener's Book of Lists (Ray and Jan McNeilan, 1997). Many genera of conifers - Cedrus (cedar), Chamaecyparis (cypress), Larix (larch), Picea (spruce), Pinus (pine), and Tsuga (hemlock) - have weeping forms, often indicated by a variety name 'Pendula' or 'Pendulum'. There are weeping birches (Betula), beeches (Fagus), and cherries (Prunus), too.

You are correct about Styrax and Halesia. Additionally, I ran across a few individual species that may be of interest to you as I researched this question:
--Davidia involucrata
--Laburnum anagyroides
--flowering currants, Ribes spp.
--flowering cherry trees, particularly Prunus padus
--various plants in the Ericaceae family have bell-shaped flowers that hang on the underside of the stem.

I would add that any tree which has a naturally graceful branching pattern and/or delicately shaped foliage (such as Japanese maples) would be pleasant to view from below, as well as from other angles.

Date 2017-05-11
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Picea, Trees in cities, Trees--Care and maintenance

We just moved into a new house that has a beautiful 20-foot-tall Colorado blue spruce planted too close to the house. Can it be topped and shaped so it could be left in that spot? If we wanted to remove it and plant it somewhere else could we do that? Or will it just die anyway? What to do?


I would not recommend topping the tree. Since this tree can reach mature heights of 30 to 60 feet or more, it may not be the right tree for the site. Here is a page about Colorado blue spruce (Picea pungens) from University of Illinois Extension's Selecting Trees For Your Home.

Here is information from a local organization, Plant Amnesty, on why topping trees is not a good solution to your landscaping problem.

This organization has an "Adopt-a-Plant" service, if you think you would like to give the tree away. There are also referral services available from Plant Amnesty if you need the tree removed or moved to another location. You could also contact a certified arborist through the International Society for Arboriculture.

I would suggest looking at resources like Great Plant Picks, which lists trees and shrubs which will do well in our area, and includes information on their growth habits and ultimate size at maturity.

Date 2018-07-19
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Picea

I am interested in planting a dwarf Colorado blue spruce in my yard (I live in Kirkland), but my landscaper said that blue spruce does not do well here. Is she correct? It is true that there aren't any on the Great Plant Picks list.


According to local gardener and author Arthur Lee Jacobson, Picea pungens f. glauca (Colorado blue spruce) is quite common in gardens here, but in his opinion it does not have many assets beyond its striking color and hardiness (North American Landscape Trees, Ten Speed Press, 1996). I wonder if your landscaper has observed that it is susceptible to spruce spider mites, aphids, and other pests and diseases. I see that it is susceptible to Phytophthora, which is often a problem in our area. The book Trees & Shrubs for Pacific Northwest Gardens by John and Carol Grant (Timber Press, 1990) concurs that Colorado spruce is not the best choice for our region because of pests and diseases. Newly planted trees will also need regular watering for their first year, and if they do not receive it, they are likely to suffer dieback or death. Here are links to additional information from the Washington State University and the Urban Forests Ecosystems Institute SelecTree site.

Pest & Disease: Susceptible to Aphids, Scales and Spider Mites, Oak Root Rot, Phytophthora, Root Rot, Rust and Sooty Mold.

If you love the look of this tree, you could try growing it despite the drawbacks, or you could look for other blue foliage conifers which may be easier to grow here. Great Plant Picks mentions Abies pinsapo 'Glauca,' though this is not a dwarf tree.

You might want to search the Oregon State University Landscape Plants web pages for additional information on any other trees you are considering for your garden.

Date 2018-03-01
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Picea

I am thinking of planting a Bruns Weeping Serbian Spruce in a mostly sunny spot in my garden. From what I have learned, it appears to be rather small and narrow, suitable for a smaller yard--and very attractive. Are there any issues that I should be aware of, besides the fact that it is pricey? The write-up I found online says it was voted 2007 Collectors Conifer of the Year by the American Conifer Society, and is more resistant to insects than most spruces.


When you are at the stage of seeking a source for Picea omorika 'Pendula Bruns,' you may want to know that there is sometimes a bit of confusion between 'Bruns' and 'Pendula Bruns'. Make sure the nursery source has distinguished between these two cultivars.

There is a Michigan State University Department of Horticulture publication entitled "Conifer Corner." The April 2008 issue focuses on narrow conifers, and describes the tree in which you are interested. The author of the article, Prof. Bert Cregg, wrote about this tree in another issue on weeping conifers. According to Cregg, "it's always hard to go wrong with a Serbian spruce. 'Pendula Bruns' is a little slower growing and has a little tighter form than 'Pendula' and 'Berliners Weeper.'"

In Gardening with Conifers by Adrian and Richard Bloom (Firefly Books, 2002), the authors list 'Pendula Bruns' as a cultivar to seek out: "Its leading shoot needs training for a few years, then its branches cascade down the trunk, making an arresting narrow specimen." Richard Bitner's Conifers for Gardens (Timber Press, 2007) says of Picea omorika that it "should be planted in full sun on well-drained soil. It tolerates heat, humidity, and wind, and is not damaged by snow. Many consider it a good choice for urban landscapes because it will tolerate atmosphere pollution better than most spruces and is also forbearing of limestone soil. It is resistant to the pests and diseases that plague many other spruces." Of 'Pendula Bruns' the author says: "Very narrow selection with strongly pendulous side branches. Stunning!"

Nothing I found suggested specific pest and disease problems associated with this cultivar. Penn State University cites Serbian spruce as being generally less prone to problems, keeping in mind that they are writing about the East Coast:
"Few diseases appear to bother Serbian spruce in the mid-Atlantic region. Some sources list aphids, mites, scale and budworm as potential insect problems, however so far there are no reports of these pests significantly affecting the tree in Pennsylvania. The notable exception is White Pine weevil. This pest will destroy the central leader and can seriously disfigure Serbian spruce if not controlled."

For information on problems affecting spruce trees generally, see Oregon State University's Online Guide to Plant Disease Control website. (Search by plant name.)

Considering the information from the sources above, this sounds like a fantastic tree choice for your garden.

Date 2018-06-27
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Garden Tip

Keywords: Plant and garden societies, Chamaecyparis, Picea, Tsuga, Abies, Dwarf conifers and shrubs, Conifers

The Pacific Northwest is an excellent climate for growing evergreens because our winters are generally mild. We can grow far more species than just Douglas Firs and Red Cedars, and in city gardens dwarf conifers are much more suitable. Explore the wide world of conifers, plants that produce cones, by joining the American Conifer Society. Membership costs $25 per year which includes a nice quarterly journal with color photos. Their website has a database with descriptions and photos, as well as information on becoming a member. Call (410) 721-6611 to join.

Favorite four conifers as voted on by members of the American Conifer Society:

  1. Picea orientalis 'Skylands'
  2. Abies koreana 'Silberlocke'
  3. Tsuga canadensis
  4. Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Nana Lutea'

Date: 2007-04-03
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May 31 2018 13:14:08