What could be better winter interest in the snowy landscape than a lovely evergreen? We’re all conscious that the deer population has been gradually increasing in our area. These two plant suggestions are not preferred by deer! And while not native to the Northeast, they are perfectly hardy in our region and harmonize well with other native plants that might be at your woodland edge or in your garden beds.
Norway Spruce, Picea abies, is a massive tree with graceful sweeping branches native to central and northern Europe. It can reach 100’ tall in our area, although usually it is listed as reaching 40’-60’ height by 20’-30’ wide. I suggest that you treat this plant as a stand-alone specimen with plenty of space around it. It can also be used in groupings for screening but has to be spaced properly to allow for future growth! Note that it does not respond well to prolonged high heat so will need careful irrigation in droughty summers. Norway spruce features large downward hanging cones – this is an easy diagnostic from a distance.
Serbian Spruce, Picea omorika, hails from southeastern Europe. This plant has a very elegant form and is full and broad for screening purposes. It can also stand alone in a smaller garden. Trees reach a 50’-60’ height by 20’-25’ wide. Cones also hang downward but are smaller at about 2” long. This spruce is quite adaptable to many soil conditions and can be grown in partial or high shade.
Worried about pests and diseases of spruces? One of the experts at UMass Extension says that needle blight diseases (discoloration of needles) can be an issue in our area on these plants. Avoid planting blue spruces for this reason as they are better adapted to the high altitudes of the Rockies. White fir, Abies concolor, can be a good substitute for the blue spruces in our region. As with all woody plants, paying attention to soil conditions through a soil test, implementing an amending program, and watering during dry spells can make the difference with the pest and disease issues.