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If you tend to think of evergreen trees as dark and somber additions to the landscape, then the Skylands Oriental Spruce will change your mind completely. This slim pyramidal conifer will light up your garden year-round with gold-frosted foliage. The new growth is especially brilliant, appearing all over the plant like glowing lemon-yellow pompoms that gradually extend with the warming days of spring. Hot pink male “flower” cones that appear at the same time are another color treat that this people-pleaser serves up, and the female cones are purple before changing into the brown pinecones (or “sprucecones”) that we are all familiar with. Quite a parade of color from this special evergreen!
Oriental Spruce is native to the Caucasus Mountains, where eastern Europe meets western Asia. This elegant tree is seldom planted in American landscapes; Norway Spruce, with its faster growth rate, and Colorado Blue Spruce, with its powder-blue needles, are more often the trees picked to “spruce up” our yards. However, Oriental Spruce is a choice tree deserving of much wider use. It can get tall, but it has a very small footprint and fits nicely into today’s smaller landscapes. Its dense, dark green foliage looks sharp at all times. This spectacular gold-needled form originated at the Skylands Botanical Garden in New Jersey in 1979.
Skylands Oriental Spruce has very short needles (Oriental Spruce has the shortest needles of any of the Spruces), which are rounded at the tips and soft to the touch. They hug the tiered branches tightly, clothing every branchlet in golden yellow. Skylands has a graceful, open outline in youth, becoming fuller and more regal in time.
How to Grow
Skylands Oriental Spruce is at its best in moderate climates where summers are relatively cool and mild. It tolerates considerable cold in the winter, but needs to be sheltered from strong subfreezing winds. This specimen conifer requires moist but well-drained soil to reach its potential, although the species is known to be drought tolerant once established. Skylands is especially sensitive to climatic extremes when young, and browning of the needles may occur when exposed to hot summer sun or freezing winds. With age the tree will tend to “toughen up” a bit. Skylands Golden Spruce is generally free of most pest and disease issues, although spider mites can be a problem in hot, dry weather.
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