The Norway spruce, of which this plant is a variety, can attain heights of 150 feet, hardly a rock garden plant. The bird's nest spruce, however, is completely different. Even after nearly three decades, it rarely reaches more than 3 feet in height. It may attain 6 feet or more in spread.
Description of bird's nest spruce: Bird's nest spruce is a low-growing, rounded conifer with a distinctly flat top. It bears dark green needles that are much shorter and daintier than those of the typical species. As the plant ages, the outer section often grows higher than the middle, giving the plant its characteristic central depression: the "bird's nest" shape from which it derives both its botanical and common names. Ease of care: Easy.
Growing bird's nest spruce: Plant in full sun to light shade in soil that remains moderately moist. This plant grows better in cool summer areas than in warm ones.
Propagating bird's nest spruce: By grafting.
Uses for bird's nest spruce: The bird's nest spruce is a solid, easy-to-grow dwarf conifer. It works well in rock gardens and as foundation plantings or specimen plantings. Its main advantage, unlike so many other "dwarf" conifers, is that it never outgrows its space.
Bird's nest spruce related varieties: There are several dwarf spruces that can be used in rock gardens. Where some elevation is required in the rock garden, dwarf Alberta spruce (Picea glauca Conica), with its densely conical form, is a popular choice. Its new growth is an attractive light green. Dwarf Alberta spruce will eventually reach 10 to 12 feet in height, but only after 30 years or so. Other conifers offering slow-growing varieties of similar appearance to dwarf spruces include firs (Abies) and hemlock (Tsuga).
Scientific name of bird's nest spruce: Picea abies Nidiformis
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