Dwarf Alberta Spruce
(Pinaceae - Pine Family)
- medium-sized evergreen specimen shrub
- to 10' tall by 3' wide and occasionally larger, but often smaller
- upright pyramidal growth habit
- very slow growth rate
- full sun to partial sun
- best performance occurs in full sun in a moist, well-drained soil, sited a few feet away from any other hardscape structure, plant, or artificial irrigation, so that airflow and sunshine will remove moisture from the very dense foliage
- not tolerant of urban stresses (especially to pollution, Winter salt spray, continuously dry soils, high light reflection, and heat) to which it is often exposed
- propagated by rooted stem cuttings
- Pine Family, with a few serious pest (and possibly also disease) problems that, when coupled with the overplanting of this formal shrub, serve to render it as an eventual liability in the landscape
- abundantly available in container form
- insects (especially mites) will infest the plant sooner or later, especially in areas of the shrub that are more prone to repeated Spring and Summer wetness (such as the backside of the shrub next to a wall or foundation after a rain, the bottom one-third above the morning dew, or the lawn side next to an irrigation system); infestations will lead to localized stem and needle death, which will make the plant very unsightly; for this reason, Dwarf Alberta Spruce should only be used with discretion in areas with good air circulation and possibly with an annual pesticide preventive application program
- reversion to the species form will rarely occur as a prominent shoot with thicker stems and much larger foliage; this should be pruned away at just below the point of origination, as it will predominate that section of the shrub and alter its formal appearance
- medium- to light-green, very thin, densely packed needles are up to 0.5" long, radiating around the thin stems
- virtually non-existent, and ornamentally insignificant
- rarely has very small cones
- light brown and very thin
- thin brown-gray scales with age, hidden by the branching and foliage to the ground
- usually a medium-sized shrub having a very formal, pyramidal outline, of very slow growth rate, with small medium-green needles on the densely branched thin stems, eventually maturing at about 10' in height and 3' in width, with individual branches becoming slightly mounded in the more conical outline of the mature shrub
- focal point, specimen, foundation, or entranceway shrub, noted for its naturally formal, semi-dwarf, evergreen, and stately pyramidal appearance
- very fine texture
- thick density
- excellent specimen evergreen shrub in terms of its formal, pyramidal habit
- slow, tight, and formal growth allows it to be a no-maintenance shrub in terms of pruning or shearing
- repeated mite infestations often lead to the very serious decline, dieback, and even death of the plant (unless annual spray programs are implemented)
- not urban tolerant (although it is often found in stressful situations, especially when drought and poor soil at the transplant site combine with the well-drained media [rather than topsoil] of the original containerized root ball)
- zones 2 to 6
- the species form Picea glauca, a large evergreen tree, is native to Canada and the Northern United States (the cultivar 'Conica' was discovered in 1904 in Alberta, Canada)
- small pyramidal evergreen shrubs; since Dwarf Alberta Spruce is so overused and so prone to mite infestation, the following partial list yields specific examples, some of which must be occasionally sheared to maintain a relatively dwarf, pyramidal habit:
- Buxus x 'Green Mountain' (to 3' tall)
- Chamaecyparis nootkatensis 'Glauca' (to 10' tall)
- Ilex x meserveae (several male and female cultivars cultivars exist of this broadleaf evergreen shrub, which can be sheared at an early age into pyramidal form, and must be annually sheared to maintain this shape; to 10' tall)
- Picea pungens glauca 'Blue Totem' (to 12' tall)
- Taxus cuspidata 'Capitata' (to 12' tall or more)
- Thuja occidentalis 'Smaragd' (also known as 'Emerald Green'; to 12' tall or more)
- Picea glauca - White Spruce - the species form, which is a slow-growing evergreen conifer to 40' tall by 20' wide, having pale green needles to 0.75" long
- Picea glauca conica 'Jean's Dilly' - a shorter form of Alberta Spruce (to 5' tall), with needles that are concentrated at the ends of each season's short stem growth, and with a distinctive twist to the needles
- Picea glauca conica 'Rainbow's End' - to 8' tall, with a second flush of growth in midseason being chartreuse to cream-yellow in foliage color
- Picea glauca densata - Black Hills Spruce - a slower growing, more dense and formal variety of the species treeform, to 20' tall by 10' wide
- Picea is the Latin name for Spruce, derived from the word pix, or pitch, referring to the sticky resin in Spruce bark.
- glauca translates as "glaucous", referring to the lighter color of its green needles as compared to most evergreens.
- 'Conica' refers to the tight, conical or pyramidal shape of the common cultivar, which broadens considerably at the base and apex with advanced maturity.
- Dwarf Alberta Spruce is an overused small pyramidal evergreen shrub, being very formal and tight in appearance and often used in pairs at foundation entranceways, or singly as a bed or lawn focal point, but very prone to decline and cosmetic unsightliness due to eventual mite infestation.
- Picea glauca 'Conica' is known as a common, small- to medium-sized, slow-growing pyramidal evergreen shrub that often serves as a focal point in landscapes.
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