The Tale of the Blue Spruce

I hate them.

 OK, that is a bit harsh, but I am not a huge fan.   My parents had planted two on the front lawn of their house, and they grew huge, and blocked the view from the windows. (It was mostly us kids fault, we gave them to my Dad for two Fathers Days).

When we purchased Kilbourne Grove in May 2006, imagine my dismay when I saw this fairly newly planted blue spruce, right on the front lawn. You had a great view of it from the bay window in the front parlour  and I hated it!

But, I left it alone until last month, hoping it would perhaps grow on me.

It didn’t.

So, after promising Ian many favours, we moved it. You notice I said moved it, not got rid of  it. I felt bad for my poor unloved blue spruce. I could not take his life, but I could move him to a more, shall we say, less prominent spot.


The view from my front parlour. (Sorry, this picture is not great of the blue spruce, I was not taking it with the thought of writing a post about it. You can see that I was attempting to hide it with the Emerald cedars.)


A little bit more noticeable, taken from outside.

gardenOct09 117

Notice the big gaping hole here, that was a lot of digging!

gardenOct09 118

Taken from the other direction. I would like to put a tree back in this spot, but something more (in my eyes anyway) ornamental.

gardenOct09 119

Something I found a bit odd, but maybe someone with more tree planting experience than I can enlighten me. When we got to the root ball, we found it still in a wire cage. We cut this off when we replanted it, but I was disturbed. Since I am frugal (Scottish), I have never purchased a tree larger than a three gallon pot. Are you supposed to leave the wire cage on? I can see where the tree roots would have plenty of room to grow out, but it seems bad to me, for Mother Earth!

So, we moved the blue spruce close to the road, near the driveway. I am thinking of changing the shape of the driveway to more of a courtyard. This means I have to plant trees and shrubs along the edge of the property, close to the street. We would leave an entrance from the street and then it would widen into a square in front of the garage.



27 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    elephant's eye said,

    Surely the cage was a mistake? (I hate conifers, so) What about something for autumn colour, then you get all those lovely leaves for mulch. And something with berries or nectar for the birds. Then flowers for you? A tree in bloom is spectacular, especially if your window looks onto it, and the passersby will enjoy it too.

  2. 2

    Diana, that sounds like the perfect tree, Hopefully, I will figure out what one it is!
    I thought the wire cage was a mistake, thank you for agreeing with me.

  3. 3

    Joy said,

    Deborah .. I am just seeing your post now and YES ! that wire cage should not have been on the tree .. it might have been a stabilizer while in the nursery but when planted in a home yard it should have been cut off. I have Emerald cedars at the top of my back garden ally way .. I do love them and wow !! it was a heck of a job getting them in because that area was CLAY and stubborn !!
    Did I say this already ? about your Ian and my son Ian having the same name ? and about the Scottish blood line ? my father’s family emigrated to Nova Scotia mid 1700’s and stayed there for literally hundreds of years.
    Well that is me blithering on first thing in the morning ? haha
    Joy : )

    • 4

      Joy, I wish that I had thought to take a picture of the tree with the cage still on it, I was just so surprised. It was a very heavy tree, we had to use a dolly to get it over to the driveway.
      Ian was actually named after Ian Fleming, who wrote the James Bond novels. But it really pleased his Scottish grandmother. Have you seen the book “How the Scots Invented the Modern World”, we have had our hand in everything!

  4. 5

    teza said,

    ‘Twas like a caged animal was it?’ Must have been a half decent size when it was planted.l Of course this is not the first time I have heard of them being planted with the cage intact….. ‘How was I supposed to cut it off, my secateurs would hardly suffice!!!”

    Alas, I am firmly in the boat with you when it comes to the ubiquitous ‘Blue Spruce.’ I had to try and sell a freaking forests worth at the nursery…. and then they discovered that I detested them! God awful!

    Oooh, but now you say you have a space that needs to be home to a tree!?! Laugh not when I suggest a semi conifer – I love Pseudolarix amabalis, or Larix for that matter. Tall but whispily contorted – would continue the theme started with the Emerald Cedars,,, but, and you likely know where I am headed next,,,,, CORNUS! Flowers with such lovely bracts, variegated or not foliage and an abundance of fruit in the fall. Methinks a wonderful C alternifolia specimen, with the pagoda form already present would be….. ready for it…… ‘fabulously chartreuse!’

    PS: You’re not banned from reading my messages too are you? TeHe! LOL!!!

    • 6

      Teza, I love the idea of a cornus alternifolia, but it is not protected in anyway. Does this not need some shelter?
      Not banned from reading, however we have not got to the purchasing yet!!! LOL

  5. 7

    Jean Potuchek said,

    Deborah, I once read a very funny description of blue spruce (but now I can’t find the book to get the exact quote and the reference!) that went something like this: “You plant this cute tree beside your house, and twenty years later it’s a looming giant and your house looks like a mailbox.” I currently have a blue spruce planted at what seemed the edge of the woods a number of years ago but which is now way too close to the deck. Right now, it’s about 7 feet tall, but that won’t last. In a few weeks, I’m going to cut it down and turn it into this year’s Christmas tree. -Jean

  6. 9

    Grace said,

    Hi Deborah~~ I’m amazed that people still believe keeping the root ball bound up with either wire or burlap or whatever, is the right thing to do. According to my OSU classes, [the experts] state without hesitation that any and all barriers should be removed. And the tree’s crown should be planted at soil level, no deeper–this was another biggie.

    My neighbors have a huge blue spruce right by their front door. A few years ago they decided to limb it up but this didn’t improve things at all. And, get this, one year my hubby and I got a small blue spruce for a Christmas tree. Can you imagine? Never again. I think the blue spruce is an example of “right plant, right place.” In the proper setting it shines but all too often it’s misused. It looks like you have a better location for yours.

  7. 11

    Barbara H. said,

    Yes, the wrong tree in the wrong place – all so easy to do, unfortunately. I love the look of the blue spruce but physical contact with it? No thanks – it stings! So many choices for the new tree – what will you do? I have no intimate knowledge of Stewartias (hardiness, etc.) but have heard that they are wonderful trees. Keeping in mind, of course, that with any tree views both ways of the street are essential for pulling out purposes. I am so impressed that you were able to dig out and move this tree – you and Ian are hard workers!

    • 12

      I’ll say it stings, it was a labour of love to move that puppy, very heavy.
      I have seen a Stewartia in a garden in north Toronto, so I should check into them. They are quite pretty. You can’t see it, but there is a (very, very small) magnolia planted about 10 feet away, so something that was more upright rather than wide would be better.

  8. 13

    Mary Delle said,

    I’m so glad you got your blue spruce moved successfully. You certainly don’t need a tree to block the view. They should add to to the view.

    • 14

      That is so true, Mary Delle. The blue spruce is so solid, you would never be able to see through it (or over it) in a few years. I need something you can see through, something light and airy!

  9. 15

    I’m glad you saved the blue spruce! I’m a southern girl who lusts after trees of the North. I had a living Christmas tree, which was a blue spruce, several years ago. After Christmas, I planted it in the yard, knowing it would perish after a few of our hot summers. I noticed not long ago that the backside of it has many dead branches. So sad. You truly have an enjoyable blog. Thanks!

    • 16

      Deborah, why do we always want what we can’t have. I lust after camellias, but I do enjoy evergreens. I enjoy them more in the country. Maybe if I had as large a garden as you do, I would have more, but on a small urban lot, space is limited. Sorry to hear about your blue spruce, maybe something was just giving it a bit too much shade.
      I am glad you are enjoying my blog. I hope to see you back again.

  10. 17

    What a big job, glad it was still at the moveable stage. The cage thing is odd, and must be a mistake. The tree seems a tad leggy and stressed, I wonder if it will improve considerably now that it’s out of jail? I like blue spruces, but they are so often planted in terrible locations (ie too close to the house, as you mentioned). This is the case with one of ours, at 40ft high it’s beyond relocating, it is limbed up (as started by previous homeowners). Not my favorite look, but at least the front beds get some light and it isn’t as obtrusive. I do wish people would consider the final size of a tree before planting.

    I really like the courtyard idea, it would be so welcoming. How about a columnar crab for the empty spot?

    • 18

      It is a bit leggy isn’t it, I guess being caged up hasn’t done it a lot of good. The 40 feet is a bit worrysome, hopefully the neighbours will not mind seeing that! lol
      A columnar tree would be great, I can see I shall be on the internet all winter researching different iedas.

      • 19

        I was trying to figure out what variety we have, and there are quite a few out there. They range in size from 25-50 feet, depending on variety (and probably growth conditions). So fear not, yours may not be one of the giants.

  11. 20

    Blue spruce were hugely popular at one time. Then they just became huge. I like them in principle. It’s hard to blame a plant for the atrocities that people commit with it. But who really has room for them these days? And it’s invariably planted in the wrong place. You did right by moving it.

    There are smaller varieties of the White Fir, Abies concolor, which give you that nice blue foliage (in some cases, nicer) though without the Brobdignagian tendencies.

    • 21

      I am glad that everyone thinks I did the right thing by moving it. I wonder if we had thrown it out, if that would have been the right thing? Now, I am a little nervous it will even be too big for that spot.

  12. 22

    Hello Deborah,

    Well, it certainly is fortunate that you moved your Blue Spruce. If you hadn’t, it could have very well have been injured by the metal wire surrounding it. It is a beautiful tree – I have always wished that we could grow spruce where I live. I think people want what they can’t have….:)

  13. 24

    miss m said,

    (How did I miss your post ? It’s 3 days old…)

    Great move ! Clearly the spruce would have obstructed the view and I’m thrilled you decided to relocate rather than ditch altogether. (I cannot bring myself to throwing away plants, especially trees !) So kudos for that and all the hard work that came with it. It’s looking very happy in the new spot. It probably would not have survived in the old spot anyway, because of the cage.

    Ooh, a courtyard, how exciting. Can’t wait to see !

  14. 26

    Wendy said,

    ooooh, I think that blue spruce is beautiful!! That was quite kind of you to spare it! I do like it’s new location though, and looks like you have a new garden to plant now – maybe where the spruce was before and perhaps around where the spruce is now!

    I like the idea of changing your driveway. I was just looking at my sidewalk to the house today and was thinking about how it’d be great to change the shape of it. I think changing the hardscaping can really update the look of a house.

    • 27

      Wendy, I should do a post with a poll (if I could ever figure out how to). First we thought of a circular driveway, and then I saw a couryard driveway in a magazine. It will probably be a while though, there is always so much to do.
      But, you are right, those are now two areas that need planting up!

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