Before I fell in love with fall colors and the associated plants, I was a conifer guy- evergreens that show off all year long with just minor changes in color during the year, mainly in the spring when new growth pops out of tiny buds. Sometimes, male and female cones look like little flowers. My collection of conifers grew and grew, literally. Most of my collection sold and some failed and died, preferring 6000’+ altitudes to the measly 600’ we have in Trumbull.
The abies genus (firs) HATE living here with very few exceptions. I never had luck with cryptomeria, and some of the cypress just hate me.
I don’t even sell blue spruce anymore because of a needle-shedding fungus called “needle cast.” The needles on the bottom turn from blue to pink then to brown and drop off onto the ground leaving ugly bare branches. Too bad because hoopsi, thompsenii, and others always were the best of the best. It was so sad to watch them decline. Sure, I could spray them but introducing chemicals into the environment is a thing of the past for me, which brings me to the shining star of my story: Picea orientalis.
I’ve had this tree and it’s five sisters since 1995ish. Nobody bought them, seeing no reason to spend 30% more than a Norway spruce or 50% more than a white pine. I guess I didn’t do such a great job selling them.
These have been shuffled from place to place on the nursery grounds and nobody ever saw value in them.
Im a flaming environmentalist, disgusted at mankind’s abuse and disregard for insects, birds, and non-human cohabitants of our place in space and time, and everything I plant on my property needs to support these friends in one way or another.
Well, this fall about two months ago, my eye was caught by an interesting never before sight- hundreds of birds attacking these trees for the nourishing seeds within the numerous cones. Chickadees, wrens, finches of all types, and unknown birds swarming all over the tops of these trees. I never saw anything like it before and I instantly decided that I would find a spot for these trees at home somewhere.
I’m impressed with this tree for other reasons though. I’ve never seen a needle discolor. The deer do not bother it. It does ok with no care. No insects molest it. I don’t do much to them if anything. When I saw that it sponsors the happiness of my feathered friends... well, I decided I’m going to start selling them again- I can’t be the only person who likes all these positive attributes.
I am now remembering another unique thing about p. orientalis- when the new growth emerges in mid- may, the needle-covered new growth feels like a snake. Yup, firm, smooth, glossy, and slippery. It’s something that this tree does that no other conifer does. It’s cool!!!
As I brought the trees home one by one, I then needed to figure out where to plant them. I don’t want to plug up the center of my yard, so planting them on the perimeter made sense for two of them. Plop plop they went into a place where a little more screening couldn’t hurt.
View my neighbor gets is better than my view of this graceful tree with its upswept branches and dangling secondary sprigs.
The sun rose this morning and those two giant beautiful RARE Picea orientalis now adorning my property and feeding my birds brings happiness to me. Now my son can do whatever we want in the back yard without unintentional prying eyes.
After planting them yesterday, the sun was closing out the day in the most surrealistic way, and I was glad to be alive.