While there’s definitely something magical about how bare branches on deciduous trees and shrubs suddenly burst out with fresh new leaves every spring, the slower, almost sensual emergence of new needles on evergreens is slightly different. It engages an extra sense. As well as sight (look how beautiful the new needles are, how bright the colours are…), there’s also the possibility of touch (soooo soft some of them are…).
The most obvious candidate to highlight is the Colorado Blue Spruce, in all of its forms. I have a few trees but the one with the most shocking colour is the globe blue spruce – Picea pungens ‘Globosa.’ Every year the bright new candles shine out for many weeks until they age a bit, and seem to turn a bit dull. It makes a huge contrast to the various shades of green from the perennials springing up all around this little tree.
The evergreen with the softest looking, and feeling, new needles is this little unknown type of fir tree – Abies sp. . The new candles will straighten and firm up to become little branches over the course of the season, but for now, the floppy look and the bright colour make me want to stroke it as if it was a soft furry dog or cat.
Another little fir tree with bright new needles, albeit not nearly as friendly looking, is the Korean fir – Abies koreana. It’s such a slow grower there’s barely an inch (2.5 cm) of new growth every year.
It’s remarkable to compare it to this Austrian pine – Pinus nigra – with one or more feet (30 plus cm) of new growth this year.
I think my current favourite evergreen, though, is this tiny white spruce – Picea glauca. The County was giving away various native tree saplings earlier this year, partly in an effort to mitigate the huge losses we’re seeing here from emerald ash borer. I have a dozen or so ash trees that are in various stages of dying/death and wanted to provide long term habitat for birds and so plunked this into the ground. It was just a fuzzy stick to begin with, but look at it now. Grow little tree, grow!