Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sudden Spruces

Federal law should require a warning sign on the dashboard of every gardener's car to alert  unsuspecting passengers of the dangers of unexpected stops and swerves.  As a passenger in my Jeep, Mrs. ProfessorRoush is often being thrown into the dashboard or side door as I slow down suddenly to view a Garden Center storefront or swerve to admire a floriferous rose near the road.  I feel such adventures enrich her life by providing relief of her boredom on trips across town.  She has returned my thoughtful acts by considerably enriching my vocabulary during these jaunts. 

Mrs. ProfessorRoush was accompanying me recently on a Sunday morning coffee run when I passed the Blue Spruce pictured here and came to a sudden stop in the middle of a Manhattan street.  As a long-suffering gardener's wife, she was not surprised at all by the action, but merely briefly commented on the hot coffee spilled from the cup in her hands onto her lap and onto the dashboard.  Thankfully, she was mollified as I explained that it was important to the World that I capture and share the photographs here as prime examples of a "what not to do" garden technique.  

There are a plethora of gardening books and articles centered around the idea of "Right Plant, Right Place." Some clever writers put a twist on that philosophy and take a "Wrong Plant, Wrong Place" approach.  I'm using these photos on this blog to illustrate an "Abominable Plant, Atrocious Place" example. 

Properly sited in a landscape, Colorado Blue Spruce can be magnificent specimen trees; indestructible, colorful, and drought and deer resistant.  Many suburban and rural homes built from the 1940's through the 1970's had a Blue Spruce planted nearby so that the homeowner's good landscaping taste could be clearly displayed.  We grew smarter in the 1980's, however, and realized that these trees are not meant for small yards or even for most yards.  They are particularly abhorrent when planted in the 8 foot wide space between the driveway of a house and the sidewalk/street, as pictured here.  Do you think this homeowner has any clue that in the next decade, he'll be constantly trimming these limbs away from his garage and from the sidewalk?  That it will smother the euonymous and grass planted around it?  That it will become a complete nuisance as its constantly shed needles clog the downspouts of the house and litter the driveway? 

As an Extension Master Gardener, sworn by oath to spread gardening knowledge to the uninitiated masses, I was sorely tempted to knock on the door of this home and educate the occupants about the horticultural evil that they have unleashed in their landscape, but Mrs. ProfessorRoush persuaded me that the homeowner might not be thankful for nor receptive to such enlightment at 6:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning.  Acceding to the wisdom of her superior intuition in such matters, I can but hope that this homeowner, aware of their shortcomings, is a frequent and dedicated reader of my blog, and that the next time I pass through this area, I'll be treated to the view of a far better choice of plants for the space.  With my luck, of course, it'll be a grouping of 'Knock Out' roses, but I suppose small positive steps are better than no steps at all. 


  1. Professor Roush,

    I had two thoughts while reading your post that I wanted to share with you:
    1. A vivid image of Mrs. Professor Roush as a crash test dummy.
    2. What if the spruce is one of the dwarf variety that is 20+ years and can stay that size forever with a little pruning?

    I really love your blog!

    1. I didn't know that dwarf blue spruces existed except for the "globe" types. On the one hand, I guess if there are good dwarf ones out there in a pyramidal shape, that'd be a neat substitute. On the other hand, individual evergreens in the landscape never do very much to tickle my fancy....they just form a blob and I'm not crazy about individual blobs sitting in my yard; they look too much like scary trespassers at night.

  2. Our local Arbor Days Celebration offers seedlings each April. Many of these trees are planted in our small city lots. Do they make a safety travel mug imprinted with the "serenity Prayer" for Mrs.PR?

  3. Looks like the 'fat albert' variety to me. No pun intended. Actually it is dwarf variety, but this person should understand it gets wider than taller. Actually a straight species would get taller and more erect and would look better limbed up. My mother planted some arbor day spruces 20 years ago and are huge and in the wrong place.

  4. Oh, no! That's my yard!

    Just kidding. I do have a Japanese Maple I'd like to move about a foot or two, though!

  5. I feel MrsProfessorRoush pain or maybe her neck pain. I know your logic but maybe they are smarter than you and plan to sell in 5 years? Love now, sell later?


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