The Blue Meyer
By Bob Girardin
This is my third article on this amazing rare Chinese spruce (Picea meyeri). The name Blue Meyer was coined by my good friend Bill Wayward from Itasca Greenhouse in Cohasset, Minnesota. The reason I am writing about Blue Meyer is that I strongly feel we have a winner in this rare Chinese spruce.
Darrell Russ from Norfolk, CT, who is one of the pioneers with the Exotic movement, was the person who first put me onto this great tree. As the head forester for the Great Mountain Forest in Norfolk, CT, he had the opportunity to watch this Chinese spruce grow to its present height of over 50 feet.
I purchased my first plugs of Blue Meyer from Itasca Greenhouse in 1991. I put them in my transplant bed until the Spring of 1994, when I field planted them as P+3. Once established, they averaged a foot or more growth per year. In 2000, these trees are presently over 6 feet tall.
After observing this species for seven years in the field on many different sites both heavy and dry, this tree is a survivor. The feedback that I have received on the tree from growers all across the country and Canada support my conclusions. My observations on this rare Chinese spruce are as follows:
1. Beautiful, blunt blue-green foliage
2. Medium growth rate
3. Self-shaping with a minimum of shearing
4. Upright branching habit
5. Does well under drought conditions
6. Does well on both heavy and light soils
7. Responds well to fertilizer
8. Heavy bud set
9. Responds well to shearing
10. No evidence of disease
11. Very few insect problems (One out of 400 trees had a white pine weevil problem)
12. Does not break bud early
13. Can withstand temperatures ranging from -50°F to 100+°F
14. Needle retention is excellent
15. Does well on heavy clay soils
16. Transplants easily (I had 100% survival)
17. Some trees tend to grow wide
18. Does very well as an interplanted species
I feel the future of this Exotic spruce is as a living Christmas tree. Its dense, self-shaping appearance makes it a perfect candidate for the live tree market and as an ornamental planting and a beautiful 7 foot Christmas tree without much shearing
This spruce should be part of any exotic planting and is the perfect candidate for areas of the county that experience a wide fluctuation of temperatures like the upper Midwest, and also those microclimates that have a wide range of soil conditions.
Meyer Spruce CHINA
Picea meyerii •98 ft tall (China), bluegreen needles, perfect shape, minimal shearing, late bud break, dense growth habit, tolerates most soil conditions
Blue Spruce Appeal with Built-In Disease Resistance
Considered an exotic evergreen in the United States, the Meyer Spruce is catching on as a favored alternative to the Blue Spruce. A native of China and Russia, it’s virtually identical to its American counterpart in shape, color and texture.
Like the Blue Spruce, it’s most notable for its distinct, blue-green color and tapered, conical shape. But what sets it apart is its disease resistance. This Chinese variety is tolerant of common pests that can wreak havoc on our native species. In fact, if you’ve attempted to grow the Blue Spruce with little success, you’ll find this conifer easily fills its “landscape shoes.”
Classic Christmas Tree Flair
The Meyer Spruce is a welcome addition of warmth and good cheer when most of your surroundings are taking a long winter’s nap. It has a classic Christmas tree shape – wider branches at the base, tapering to a single upright “star topper” at its peak. Tipped in silvery-blue, boughs are upright and dense with foliage. Soft, needle-like leaves are half-inch to an inch long and cover the branch in a uniform, spiral fashion.
Adapts to Most Any Setting
Picture a spruce tree, and the scene usually includes a snow-covered setting. But the truth is the Chinese “Blue Spruce” thrives in a wide range of climates that extend well into the southern most regions of the country. Recommended for USDA Zones 2-8, it weathers fluctuating conditions from hot and cold to dry and rainy with persistent vigor.
No need to concern yourself with soil type, consistency, even pH when selecting a location for the Meyer Spruce. If there’s good drainage and 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight each day, this tree will flourish to 40 feet or taller!
Due to its hardy nature, the Meyer Spruce is the preferred “blue spruce” for those living in humid climates where disease is more likely to spread. And given its adaptability, it’s a fine choice for moisture-conserving landscapes and low air-quality urban environments.
Fulfills a Variety of Landscape Needs
Although it makes a stunning single specimen ornamental, it can also address a variety of functional needs. Its dense habitat works wonders as a shelterbelt or break from cold winds and blowing snow. Stagger trees along a busy street, and you have a living privacy fence and sound barrier. Its protective branches draw in neighborhood animals, serving as comfortable shelter and plush nesting sites. Lodging aside, deer find this evergreen unpalatable, preferring more tender options as dining fare. The Meyer Spruce makes a bold statement with its crisp, architectural frame and cool-blue personality. Low maintenance and versatile, it’s sure to fulfill its year-round duties with ease.
Maybe It’s Time to Spruce Up
By Bob Girardin
Over the many years of growing Christmas trees, including exotic conifers, I met a few growers of true firs that felt that growing spruce as a Christmas tree was not a good choice. They told me that this sentiment was prevalent among fir growers in general; with the main reason given being that spruces will not hold their needles very well as a Christmas tree.
Having successfully grown spruce myself, and knowing others who have done so, I have decided to try to change some minds on growing spruce as a Christmas tree – in particular the genus Picea meyeri (Meyer spruce), which is native to China.
I have been growing Picea meyeri (Blue Meyer) for 18 years and have received feedback from all over the United States and Canada. This is what we know:
Beautiful blunt blue foliage
Unsurpassed needle retention
Very little shearing needed
Makes a great ornamental
Perfect for a pot in pot growing system
Fibrous root system
Hardy to ‐50F
Does well on heavy soils
Does not break bud early
Upright branching habit that will support heavy ornaments
One of the top sellers at my farm in Sanbornton, NH
Responds well to fertilization
Responds well to basal pruning which will promote top growth
Rate of growth depends on soil quality and ample rainfall
It has been successfully grown in Zones 2‐7 and has been grown in Zones 8‐9 with special care as choosing heavy soils and supplying ample watering
Known to be resistant to spider mites and aphids and there have been no reports of needle cast diseases
It has survived serious droughts when Blue spruce failed
Has taken top prizes in the spruce category at some state contests
photo by Bob Girardin