Gardens with a more formal feel have definitely come back into fashion, and formal touches add a lot to a more casual gardening style too. One of the formal details widely used is the clipped round ball on an upright trunk, which can be used to accent corners, create lines, or go into boxes beside doors and steps. The only problem with this feature is that the balls take a lot of clipping and care to look neat and smart, which is essential to get the ‘look’ right. So the perfect plant for this formal use would never need clipping. But hey, such a thing can’t exist, right? No, wrong! You can send as a gift tree to someone – maybe yourself – the perfect round-ball plant that will never need clipping and always look neat. It is the Little Gem Spruce Tree.
Now a spruce tree to most people sounds like a big forest tree, and that is correct. But the Little Gem Spruce is the exact opposite. It is one of Nature’s wonder; a dense, tiny plant that forms a perfect sphere that is never more than 2 feet across. Such special trees take skilled work to produce, so unfortunately they are always in short supply and often not available at all.
Growing Little Gem Norway Spruce Trees
So imagine – a plant that without any clipping will grow naturally into a ball that will never get too large. Our expert growers have mounted this amazing tree onto a sturdy trunk, so it is the perfect ‘lollipop tree’ – a spherical ball on a trunk that will never need clipping yet always look neat. This tree forms a dense cluster of short stems, covered in short needles, with the stems so closely-packed that they form a solid ball. The growth-rate is very uniform, so the ball just gets slowly larger, growing in all directions at the same rate and never sending up long shoots that need trimming. In spring the new growth is a yellow-green that almost looks like the ball is flowering. As summer comes the stems turn a deep green and stay that way all through winter too.
The Little Gem Spruce Tree is very hardy and will grow in every state, right across the country. It is especially useful in colder areas where the choice of plants is more limited. It should be planted in full sun in cooler areas and in partial shade in hot regions, where some shelter from the midday sun is beneficial. This tree is happy in most types of soil except the harshly alkaline and it will grow easily, without fuss and bother. When newly planted it should be kept well-watered, especially during the first summer, but once established it will survive periods of drought without problems.
Uses in Your Garden
Use the Little Gem Spruce Tree wherever you would like to have a formal ball. This could be on either side of an entrance, directly in the ground or in a pair of attractive pots. They could mark the corners of a flower bed, or give height above a bed or planter box, with flowering plants or lower-growing shrubs underneath. Use several to mark a walkway or give structure to any part of the garden. Place them in a circle around a fountain. Wherever a formal touch is needed, this is the ideal plant, because nobody needs to be out in the garden all the time clipping away to keep an unruly plant neat – Nature will do it for you and this tree will never look untidy.
History and Origins of the Little Gem Norway Spruce
This tree has an interesting history. The Norway spruce (Picea abies) grows naturally in Scandinavia, western Russia and the mountains of Europe. Although a handsome tree, it does not have enough special features to be grown much in gardens, but it is grown in large plantations as a source of soft-wood lumber. Very occasionally in some trees a strange thing happens. From a branch a tiny cluster of dwarf branches will grow, called a ‘witch’s broom’. Pieces of these tiny branches will produce tiny plants if correctly grown and several dwarf evergreens began this way.
Around the beginning of the 20th century, at a nursery outside Hamburg, Germany, this happened on a Norway spruce tree and the resulting plant, called the Bird’s Nest Spruce (P. abies ‘Nidiformis’), is a very popular and widely grown dwarf evergreen still today. However, although dwarf, it is not that small and many gardeners have been surprised when that cute little bush quickly grows into a plant 4 feet tall and 6 feet across – or even larger. Certainly it makes a beautiful specimen, but only if you have the room. The remarkable thing is that in the 1950’s, this time at the famous Grootendorst Nursery in the Netherlands, a witch’s broom developed on a Bird’s Nest Spruce and produced a truly miniature bush, a dwarf of a dwarf, we could say. This true dwarf is the Little Gem Spruce, which only grows between 1 and 2 feet across, making a round globe.