Opinion: As we are now full on into the Christmas décor season, there is a new spruce on the market that merits attention.Opinion: As we are now full on into the Christmas décor season, there is a new spruce on the market that merits attention.Read MoreThe Vancouver Sun – RSS Feed

Opinion: As we are now full on into the Christmas décor season, there is a new spruce on the market that merits attention.

Alberta spruce is a terrific candidate for shearing and shaping. jpg

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During the coldest, darkest time of the year, adding a little pop of colour and interest on our patios and decks can be more uplifting than many of us realize. After the losses and damage from last winter’s severe cold, it is clear that we need to choose hardier, more resilient plants for enjoyment now and throughout the coming years.

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There are a few newer trees that make excellent container specimens and that adapt nicely to night lighting for a touch of brightness on those long winter evenings. I’m very impressed with a rich, deep green cedar, called Emerald Petite, a variety I mentioned in an earlier article. It’s a miniature version of the well-known Thuja Smaragd, but it grows so tight and compact that it has an entirely different look. Hardy to Zone 4, it’s well-suited to any porch pot. This new cedar has been introduced by Sidhu Nursery in Mission and is well worth consideration for your deck or driveway entrance.

Another thuja newcomer, called Jantar, is a fairly compact, golden version of Thuja Smaragd. Rated hardy to Zone 4, it will tolerate cold temperatures. Its pure gold coloration isn’t just for summer, but more importantly, its vibrant foliage also continues to glow in winter as well.

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Jantar needs to be planted in a sunny location, especially in summer, to maintain its bright colour. I was amazed that it didn’t burn during our excessive 45 C heat wave last year. Jantar is very versatile as it combines well with so many other plants in mixed containers and is a great option for replacing the current superstar, Goldcrest cypress, which isn’t hardy in outdoor winter pots.

Picea North Pole has a lovely narrow form that can be easily dressed up for the holidays. jpg

In the evening, lit with cool or warm white LED lights, Jantar shines like a beacon in the garden and looks spectacular in both summer and winter.

As we are now full on into the Christmas décor season, there is a new spruce on the market that merits attention.

Picea glauca North Pole has a unique narrow, columnar form. Unlike many other spruces, it’s soft to the touch, so it doesn’t bite when handled. It has the traditional Picea glauca bluish hue, making it an attractive addition to any garden. However, it’s no shorty as it will stretch up to 10 metres in height, but when planted in a container, it will grow a little more slowly into its columnar form.

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It can also be pruned and used as a great deck tree for some privacy. Birds love spruce trees, so adding a small feeder with suet inside would be a great way of attracting birds to your patio.

Jantar cedars offer attractive, vibrant foliage and are effective focal-point plants in containers. jpg

North Pole is very hardy; a friend of mine in the Okanagan had great success with one despite the bitter cold last year.

Another must-have spruce and one of my first choices is the Serbian Picea omorika Bruns. It’s a true alpine tree with a very narrow habit and is well-suited to containers. I love its bluish hue, its relatively soft-to-the-touch needles and the tiny cones that form in late summer. It, too, is a beauty when lit at nighttime. For years, we’ve enjoyed year-round a pair of them planted in front of our store.

The most-well-known and most-often-used spruce is Picea glauca Conica or Alberta spruce. Rated Zone 3, it’s Prairie hardy, but at these lower temperatures, it will need some protection when planted in a container. Very slow-growing and dense, it matures into a perfect, great looking cone shape.

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There are a couple of variations available: one is a very compact variety called Picea glauca Jean’s Dilly. If you need small, this is the one you want. I also love P.g. Rainbow’s End — its new growth is an explosion of bright yellow, which gradually changes into an attractive rich green as summer progresses.

Emerald Petite is a stellar new variety, with richly coloured, dense foliage. jpg

We have found that, during extreme heat situations, if Alberta spruces are a little dry, they can suffer burnt foliage. So, during hot spells in summer, keep them well-hydrated and mist the foliage to discourage spider mites.

Pines are also quite resilient in containers. One of my favourite compact varieties is the short, very narrow Pinus sylvestris Green Penguin. Rated Zone 3, it’s very hardy and grows only four feet in height and two feet in width. I love its soft, rich green foliage. It’s a showstopper.

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Boxwoods, especially in Europe, have always been the go-to container plants. There are many varieties but two of the hardiest, most resilient ones are Buxus Green Velvet and B. Green Mountain — both are rated Aone 4. Most folks want their boxwoods shaped as spherical balls or in pyramidal forms, but few growers in Western Canada offer any pre-shaped boxwoods. To get these special shapes, you will probably have to be creative on your own.

Boxwoods always look classy and are, perhaps, the nicest year-round plants to dress up your entranceways. They can be accessorized nicely by Christmas décor, such as grasses, evergreen boughs and brightly coloured shrub dogwood stems, and they look magical when lighted.

As we get closer to the Christmas season, it’s great to have some beautiful evergreen trees in containers that we can use to decorate and enhance the entrances and patios of our homes. These are some of the best trees to do just that, and when you customize your planters, by adding your favourite winter accessories, you’ll be saying a warm welcome to friends and family.

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