British Columbia: Fast growing confier for small garden?

Discussion in 'Outdoor Gardening in the Pacific Northwest' started by Justine M, Aug 29, 2011.

  1. Justine M

    Justine M Active Member

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    Sorry for this long preamble:

    I'm looking for suggestions to replace a beloved, mature formerly 70' tall Norway Spruce that was topped by the storms that killed so many trees in Stanley Park in 2007. My NS has survived and thrived, but the top 30' DID fall onto my neighbour's property. The lower section and main trunk is fantastic and it has a 30 foot wide branch span. It's now probably 35 feet tall but has a nasty looking break (that only my neighbours see). A new leader that was formerly a branch at the 15 foot height has curled up from lower in the tree and is now reaching up toward the sky... but it's also reaching out over my house and its branch bark is dramatically splitting (and dropping sap) due to the rapid growth. I love many things about this tree: (i) the protection it gives to my shade garden below - never freezes in winter for example; (ii) the fabulous green screen it provides to the alley and my neighbour's house behind it; and (iii) the shade, coolness and dappled light it gives me in the summer... but, I will need to replace it in the next 5-10 years due to fears we have of the new leader falling onto our house, and the fact that the branches are extending beyond our 33' wide property and stunting my neighbour's evergreen magnolias that would also like some sky space too. An arborist told us we should view it as a giant shrub that will forever more need branch tip pruning. The original form of the Norway spruce is gone. I see a constant trail of ants going up and down the trunk too that causes concern of what's really going on at the break point.

    I'd like to plant another conifer to replace the NS. I would like the replacement to ultimately be 20 feet wide and maybe 35 feet tall and reach maturity in 10-15 years (hahaha!). I would like to be able to remove the lower branches up to 12 feet so that the effect is like a giant umbrella.

    I have Japanese maples and rhododendrons planted along the edges of my property, so would see this tree positioned close to the same spot as my Norway Spruce is now, that is in the middle of the back yard. But I don't want to wait 10 years to have the same screen. Are there large conifers that can be transplanted that will achieve the specifications I would like? (I don't ask for much, do I?!!)

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and suggestions. I've attached some pics of the tree I believe I need to replace.
     

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  2. dt-van

    dt-van Active Member 10 Years

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    Since your previous spruce did well, how about Picea omorika (Serbian Spruce), an elegant, relatively narrow growing conifer with beautiful colour and shape. It has a moderate growth rate but can eventually get pretty big. Another option would be a nice pine with a moderate growth habit. Pines look very nice when high limbed because their bark is generally attractive. Check out the UBC and Van Dusen Botanical Gardens for plants whose form you like. They often have tags which indicate when the tree was planted which would give you an idea of the growth rate in our area. As far as I know there are no fast growing conifers other than the columnar hedgers like Thuja occidentalis 'Smaragd' which will stop at the height you want. For a shapely coniferous shade tree the fast growing ones like Cedrus deodora will quickly outgrow a small site like yours.
    Larger conifers can be successfully transplanted - by professionals with the use of heavy equipment. I believe a number of large conifers on the Cambie corridor in Vancouver were temporarily relocated during Canada Line construction without damage and you also see it done during the landscaping of "high end" apartments downtown.
     
  3. Justine M

    Justine M Active Member

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    Thank you! I will look these up right now!
     
  4. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Giant umbrella would be Italian stone pine. Otherwise another pine, in preference to a spruce. Nice bark and naturally open, more spreading tops on various pines prevalent in local landscapes. Spruces have the wrong shape and often the wrong bark for the use you are describing.

    'Umbraculifera' Japanese red pine might be close to perfect but we will all be dead of old age before a small one planted now would be 30' tall.
     
  5. Justine M

    Justine M Active Member

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    Thanks Ron! I've looked at images and you are right about it fulfilling my dream wish list of qualities. I'm now hoping it will do well in Vancouver's rainy winters. Will do more research.
     
  6. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    'Umbraculifera' has been grown in this region for decades.
     
  7. Justine M

    Justine M Active Member

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    It's the Italian Stone Pine I am wondering about. I think the Umbraculifera would take too long to achieve the size I am hoping for, though it does sound magnificent!
     
  8. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    That does get burned occasionally. But there are large ones down here. Since it is sold as a tabletop Christmas Tree numbers of them can be seen on local properties. But it may be just enough colder up there that it is not present as much, if much at all. And you are still talking about growth of maybe 1' per year. It's the same old problem, most fast trees get big and most small trees are slow. Not always the case, your spruce for instance being a slow but big tree. But it is a dominant pattern.
     
  9. Justine M

    Justine M Active Member

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    Oh. Just noticed your locale. There are just 130 miles between us and I'm very close to the water so I imagine our zones are the same... If Edmonds has large ones there are probably some here too. Ya, I noticed that Norway Spruces are said to grow 3 feet per year. Impressive! If I could find a ten year old (10 foot tall) Italian Stone Pine I'd be thrilled. I mostly want the canopy, not height. Fingers crossed!
     
  10. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    I'd expect a Norway spruce growing that fast to snap off later.
     

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