Porsche 911 or Toyota Camry

Earlier today I was in a meeting with some other professionals from across Minnesota (and a few from Wisconsin and other areas) to discuss the disease problems of conifers.  Our discussion quickly became focused on the use, and overuse, of Colorado blue spruce, a tree that just doesn’t do well in Minnesota — Or Michigan from what Bert has written!  Everyone in the meeting was yammering on about how we need to educate nurseries and consumers about how terrible the Colorado blue spruce is in our environment — you’re lucky if you can get 10-15 years out of the thing before it succumbs to one disease or another.  But, though academics, arborists, and most tree care professionals (including nurserymen) talk about how lousy this tree is, customers want Colorado blue — and if a nursery doesn’t sell it, well then that nursery has lost some business.

I support the idea of warning people away from Colorado blue.  Still, during our meeting I couldn’t help but have this thought running through my mind:

Colorado blue spruce is a unique and beautiful tree — it is bluish in color, tends to have a good form, and is a relatively fast grower (until it succumbs to whatever disease it dies from!).  There are certainly other trees that are also beautiful — but there is no denying that Colorado blue has a distinctive look.  If I were walking through a nursery this would be the tree that I’d want.  If a nursery person told me that the tree was going to have a short life — 10 – 15 years of looking good — I just might be OK with that because there just aren’t that many trees which look as attractive as a Blue spruce in a nursery.  Sure, I could have something that would look OK for 30 years, but, if I’m like most Americans, I won’t even be in the house that I’m living in now in 10 years, never mind 30.

To draw an analogy, You know that a Porsche 911 isn’t the best car to buy — it is a gas guzzler (for it’s size) — it doesn’t have much luggage space (or room for passengers), and it’s less reliable than your typical compact car.  A Toyota Camry is better in all of the areas that I just mentioned.  Still, if I were looking for a car and if they were the same price I have to admit that the Porsche would be too cool to pass up.

9 thoughts on “Porsche 911 or Toyota Camry”

  1. Interesting post. I don’t have data to back this up but I don’t think that Colorado blue spruce is such a lousy tree for gardens in my part of the world. The trees are still popular specimens as they do very well in most soils and don’t need any attention after planting. Everybody here seemed to have at least one in the garden in the 1970s so it’s no wonder they later on were considered “bourgeois” and fashion moved on to more exotic trees.

    Colorado blue spruce is not my favourite conifer but I have two in our garden (about 25 years old, live Christmas trees once) that are healthy and still going strong. The birds seem to like them very much because the dense branches provide excellently sheltered spots for their nests.

  2. I chose my blue spruce knowing that I might only have it for 10-15 years…in northern MN, zone 3/4, you need an evergreen with thick waxy cuticles (especially when planted on the west exposure). Then, there is space limitation..there are only so many zone 3 hardy evergreens that are reasonably priced and fit unique spaces (like 10-15 tall x 5 wide) unless you choose from the more readily available cultivars of blue spruce…The bottom line is that at least I’ll have an evergreen that doesn’t winter burn on the most noticeable corner of my home for 10-15 years. When its time is up, I’ll get to plant something new….Really the worst thing about choosing the blue spruce
    is having to justify to my friends trained in horticulture why I chose a blue spruce in MN.

    Now, if you were to ask me if I would like the nursery industry to give me more hardy, non-blue spruce options that are reasonably priced..I would say ‘Yes, please’, but until then, I’m o.k. with my 10-15 years…at least blue spruce can be mulched.

  3. My experience is that I can usually bank on finding beautiful fresh blue spruce boughs at the local landfill brush pile during the Christmas greenery season. And I mean beautiful… usualluy from large old trees . Whay they have been removed? Anyones guess. But I suspect they have simply outgrown their surroundings, or new owners wanted a fresh look. Keep planting those blue spruces.

  4. Love the analogy. The rush one gets from just considering the Porsche (Blue Spruce, Coral Bark Maple, or other lovely but not always happy plant) is what takes us from an ordinary existence into the sublime.

  5. By the time 10-15 years have passed, most likely the blue spruce will have outgrown the location and will need to be removed anyway. As will the Cedrus atlantica ‘glauca’.

  6. I often complain about CBS and Alberta spruce. However, I’m thinking about growing CBS for Christmas trees. I’ve grown noble firs for cutting trees, why not the CBS. I can enjoy their beauty while they are young and have a beautiful blue conifer for Christmas.

  7. In today’s market 15 years is ample for most customers, we sell a lot of Acacia baileyana “Purpurea” which is a short lived tree, but fast, attractive and an after bloom mess. But it is one of our best selling trees. Our customers don’t think they will still be in the same house 15 to 20 years down the road and so it sells.

  8. I think you can extend this analogy to gardens, as well. you’ve got your feel good Toyota Prius (vegetable garden), your make a statement of wealth (Mercedes, Lincoln), and your whatever-to-hell-with-it-the-thing-drives 1985 VW Rabbit.

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