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Bird's Nest Spruce

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Picture of the bird's nest spruce Image by F. D. Richards via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license

Overview:

Though many Norway spruces are medium to large-sized trees in the landscape, there are dwarf cultivars available. One of the most common varieties is the bird's nest spruce. This plant slowly forms into a round shrub instead of a tree.

Latin Name:

This is a cultivar of the Norway spruce that is designated as Picea abies 'Nidiformis'. They are considered to be a member of the Pinaceae family.

Common Names:

The name I see used for this variety is bird's nest spruce due to its appearance. Sometimes it can be just nest spruce.

Preferred USDA Hardiness Zones:

This can be grown in gardens in USDA Zones 3-8. Its native region is Europe.

Size & Shape:

This shrub is usually 2-4' tall, though it can eventually reach 8' in some locations. It is a rounded mound with a dip in the middle that makes it look like a bird's nest.

Exposure:

You should choose a location that offers full sun.

Foliage/Flowers/Fruit:

The green needles are fixed to the branches by a peg-like structure called a pulvinus.

This is a monoecious species and both male and female flowers are found on the same plant. They are not very noticeable and do not add to the plant's appearance.

This variety tends not to produce cones very often, if ever.

Design Tips:

You may want to leave at least a little space around this spruce for long-term plantings. While it's usually noted to be on the smaller side, it can spread out after many years and be twice as big as expected.

Once the roots have grown down and become established, the plant will be able to handle periods of drought.

Deer tend to not bother this shrub, so it can be a wise choice if this is a problem in your area.

A similar variety is called 'Repens'. 'Little Gem' is a sport (mutation) of the bird's nest spruce.

Growing Tips:

For best growth, soil should be moist with proper drainage.

Maintenance/Pruning:

This cultivar is a slow grower and should not need yearly pruning. You can prune some back during the second half of summer if you want to round it out more or keep the size in check. Of course, you can also remove any branches that are dead, diseased or damaged at any time.

Pests & Diseases:

There are not usually many pest or disease problems with this cultivar.

Diseases That May Occur:

  • Canker
  • Needle cast
  • Rust
  • Wood decay

Pests That May Strike:

  • Adelgids
  • Aphids
  • Bagworms
  • Conifer red spider mite
  • Other ites
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