There are many challenges to living and gardening on an island. Anyone who has lived here for a few years is well aware that keeping your privacy can be one of the greater challenges of island life. Most of us would be lying if we said we have never ducked behind one of the rows at Stop and Shop in the winter to avoid an ex or a particularly chatty neighbor. Now that Stop and Shop is half the size during construction, this problem seems to be all the more frequent!
Many of our customers at the nursery are particularly concerned about their privacy at home. There are many plants that do a great job of screening out the neighbor in the form of hedges and hedgerows. But so many of these loose their leaves in the winter, or become a food source for the ever-growing herd of white-tailed deer that roam the island. So what is the private gardener, concerned with year-round privacy to do? Plant deer-resistant evergreen trees, that’s what! And what are some of our favorites? Spruces!
We highly recommend spruces to islanders concerned about screening for many reasons.
- They are beautiful.
- They are dependably evergreen.
- They grow tall enough to obscure a pool area or back yard from a neighboring second story window.
- They are deer-resistant.
- They are adaptable, growing in a wide range of soils and exposures. Many actually prefer sandy, acidic, well-drained soils that are typical on most of the island.
We stock a variety of spruce trees, suitable for Nantucket. I highlight a few below, but there are many cultivars available and we are happy to source more obscure varieties for discerning customers.
Picea abies: Norway Spruce is native to Northern and Central Europe, but is extremely well suited to the extreme environment in the Northeast. These large trees will reach perhaps 50 or 60 feet tall and 20 or more feet wide in protected or forested areas of the island, away from the seashore. As they mature, they take on a distinctly pyramidal shape, with gracefully arching branches. Their needles are medium green and glossy.
Picea glauca: White Spruce is native to North America, and is found from Alaska to Labrador and into the Northern contiguous states. This spruce is known to grow to 60 feet tall with a spread of 10 to 20 feet. Mature specimens appear more like a spire, than the typical Christmas tree shape they bear in youth. Known to be one of the most adaptable spruces, it is naturally found at stream and lake shoes and the surrounding slopes. The needles are pale green to dusty blue. Picea glauca ‘Conica’, Dwarf Alberta Spruce, belongs to this species; as does Picea glauca ‘Echiniformis’, a dwarf form sometimes referred to as Hedgehog Spruce.
Picea omorika: Serbian Spruce was introduced from Serbia and Bosnia in the 1880’s. This spruce varies somewhat in habit, but is generally matures into a narrow pyramidal shape with graceful ascending branches. Size varies, but I would expect a mature tree to be 50 feet or more tall and twenty feet tall in a protected inland spot. The needles are glossy-green on the top, and glaucous on the bottom giving the tree a lovely blue cast.
Picea orientalis: Oriental Spruce was introduced to North America in 1827 from the Caucuses in Asia Minor. These slow-growing spruces are expected to mature at 50 or 60 feet in a protected inland area. These trees are densely pyramidal in form with horizontal branches that may become pendulous with age. We LOVE these trees. Their deep green needles are stubby and blunted, almost soft to the touch.
Picea pungens: Colorado Spruce is possibly one of the most common evergreen landscape trees in the suburban Northeast. It is Native to the South Western United States, from the Rockies to New Mexico. Generally known for blue forms such as , ‘Hoopsii’. This is another pyramidal tree, but recognizable by its prickly needles that more or less grow completely around the stem. Full-sized cultivars grow to approximately 60 feet in height where exposure is limited. There are, however, dwarfs in this species that are extremely compact.