Choosing plants for your garden, whether it is new, established or simply in need of a gap filling, is like stepping into a wonderland of shape, color and scent with so much available to the modern gardener thanks to online plant stores. It is easy to get sidetracked with flowering shrubs and fruiting trees, seeking out things that will compliment other plantings and finding that special something that will fit perfectly in amongst the other greenery, but do not forget those specimen plants. These are trees and shrubs that don’t need to sit alongside others; they are simply too special to be partially hidden in borders and beds. These are plants that deserve a place of their own, a position where they can be truly appreciated for their uniqueness; somewhere you can fully appreciate every twist and turn, leaf and branch. The weeping Serbian spruce has to be one of the greatest examples of this with its truly remarkable and unpredictable form. This is a tree that screams ‘I’m alive’ with its cascading foliage and characterful nature. Not easy to come across and well worth the extra it will cost you as you won’t regret it.
There are many varieties and cultivars of spruce available and there is something out there for every garden. Native to a very small area of eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina, these trees can now be found all over the world with the U.S and Europe being great fans of their texture and form in all sizes. They are easy to grow and care for and often display interesting cones that can persist year round. The needles are densely packed and dark blue green on top and a silvery white-green on the underside, the unruly nature of the drooping branches on this variety gives exposure to both sides adding year round interest of extremely high quality. This particular spruce displays small purple cones that are highly decorative and are persistent on the tree so do not create a great deal of litter.
In botanical terms you might hear the weeping Serbian spruce referred to as ‘unstable’, but this is not as derogatory as it sounds; in fact it is not derogatory at all! Visit any gardener’s forum and politely announce that you have found one of these for sale and are considering purchasing it and you will be overwhelmed with friendly envy. The use of ‘unstable’ in this context means that if left to its own devices, there is no telling what final shape you might see. It might be bolt upright or it might twist and turn, sending out a branch at an angle that allows the lovely needled stems to fall towards the ground. Of course if it is an upright form that you desire this is also easily achieved – just stake the central and strongest stem upwards and the tree will oblige. These are highly desirable and sought after trees and we can only hope that if you are reading this, we have some left for you!
There are things to be considered when choosing a position for your new weeping Serbian spruce and sunlight is of the utmost importance. Although it will survive in partial shade uneven light can lead to browning of the needles in places, so it is recommended that a full sunny spot is chosen; look for somewhere that allows a minimum of six hours a day but ideally eight. It is an adaptable plant but does prefer well drained soils, so extremely heavy clay soil could present problems in not allowing the water to drain away quickly enough. Watering is important but it is best that the water is able to drain before the next session, leaving the soil almost dry in the meantime. Once established, this is a fairly drought tolerant plant and does not need regular watering.
It does prefer acidic soil and will tolerate lightly acidic and neutral, however it does not like pollution so planting in high density urban environments is likely to displease the spruce greatly and so is best avoided.
This is a stand-alone plant, so do not be tempted to group them or cluster a number together. It is best appreciated in an outstanding position – which can also be exposed to the elements – so that its unusual and fun form can be appreciated as it grows, wending its way upwards. If you are a fan of funky foliage, and fancy a tree that might invoke images of the travels of hobbits and wizards, then this is certainly the tree for you. If you are not taken by that sort of frivolity, however, this tree probably still is for you as with little effort it can be convinced to grow nice and straight with its wonderful hanging branches sweeping down the tree to eventually splay against the ground at its feet. Wonderful.