August 2019 plant of the month series for Boulder Colorado area landscapes
August, 2019: Black Hills Spruce
Black Hills Spruce, or Picea glauca ‘Densata’ is an attractive alternative to the larger Colorado Spruce in our Boulder, CO landscapes. It has slightly shorter needles, is more compact and dense, and only grows to about 30-35’ when fully grown compared to the 80’ plus for Colorado Spruce. It can tolerate heat, wind, drought, cold, and crowded conditions. It will survive best in more moist loamy or alluvial soils, but it can still thrive in clay soils. Because it is more compact, it protects itself well from heavy winter snows, and provides a great nesting ground for small birds.
Black Hills Spruce is a natural variety of White Spruce which is found in South Dakota. It is used economically for dimensional lumber, wood pulp and Christmas trees. The Black Hills variety is a relic sub species that was isolated in the Black Hills of South Dakota and small ranges of Wyoming after the last ice age, but White Spruce is found extensively in the US/Canadian border states, as far west as Minnesota and can be found in the northern Canada and Alaskan Taiga, and occurs naturally in mixed forest environments with Balsam Fir, and Sitka Spruce in Alaska and Canada. They are extremely cold tolerant to USDA Zone 2 and therefore are quite adaptable to our Front Range climate.
A smaller and more dense habit gives them ample uses in the formal landscape. They can be used as framing trees on corners of homes, or as windbreaks or privacy screenings. Realize they will still need 20’ of space once mature, so they may not be the best choice in numbers for the smallest of yards, yet vastly more appropriate than the larger Colorado Spruce. Plant one in your landscape and remember, the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago….the next best time is right now!
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