On the 2007 Spruce of the Year Awards

27Dec07

Though we’ve long planned to honor the genus Picea — or more commonly, the spruce — for playing such a pivotal role in the continuing drama that is our backyard garden, we felt that it would be even more appropriate to offer a special acknowledgment to three of these trees who have graced us under circumstances that are often far from ideal. Each of these award winners has gone far and above the expected line of duty — that is, a mere longing for air, light, water and nutrients — to become so much more than your average tree and thus an invaluable member of the community in which they so tirelessly exist.

The winners:

Bronze: The Columnar Norway Spruce (Picea abies “Cupressina”)

Cupressina, you are cold hardy to -20 degrees and better able to withstand the weight of snow than some of your more fragile relatives. You have an exquisitely narrow (fastigiate) form that puts you in “high-demand” among more refined urban gardeners and makes us all the more appreciative of your willingness to work with us in Washington Heights. Despite technically being a dwarf species, you are fast growing — we can expect a foot of growth per year — and we have already noted with pleasure the many swelling buds on the tips of your outstretched boughs. In just a few years, you will gracefully block some of the most unpleasant vistas that our garden has to offer. For this service and more, we hope that you will accept this bronze medal as a measure of our appreciation.

Silver: The Hillside Upright (Picea abies “Hillside Upright’)

Hillside Upright

Hillside Upright, you are also narrow, columnar and — as your name implies — upright, and one of the cold-hardiest trees we’ve ever met, with an ability to withstand temperatures as low as -40. Admittedly, this has been a cause for concern at the other end of the spectrum, but your resilience through the humid summer months has been an inspiration. Your needles — said to be among the darkest green of any conifer — add unceasing interest to both the summer and winter garden, and your irregular but always elegant growth habit never fails to hypnotize us, as if you were always casting a spell under which we never cease to fall.

Gold: The Weeping Serbian Spruce (Picea Omorika ‘Pendula Bruns’)

Picea omorikia ‘Pendula Bruns’ — as we tend to call you, because yours is a name that rolls so deliciously off the tongue — you have brought an almost mythological presence to the garden. Your effortless weeping and columnar form is a source to all who must reconcile conflicting impulses and emotions; the resigned dignity of your skirt as it brushes against the ground likewise inspires all who seek to engage the world and somehow rise above it. Like those expired souls of 19th-century France who were so mystified by the mystical allure of your forebears, in 2007 we never once tired of contemplating your grace and beauty, and for this we declare you “Spruce of the Year.”

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