Do you know the difference between a spruce and a fir? Neither did I until I needed to know the name of a miniature evergreen shrub near my house, and I started to research a little.
This turned out to be a miniature Alberta spruce, a slow-growing specimen that is ideal for a confined space where you want things to stay more or less the same for a few years. Mine is not in a good spot - the ornamental grass and the star magnolia grow to shade it completely in the summer months.
I think a move is in the works in the spring, if I can just learn to dig efficiently using my left foot.
My callicarpa has to be moved, too, I have to keep it pruned all summer or it would block South Jefferson Street to all pedestrian traffic, and it is too beautiful to be treated that way.
So my water pot has to go, and the handy hole will receive the callicarpa by the back door, where it can grow as wide and tall as it is meant to be. Along with a water lily, I have been adding a new set of goldfish to the water pot every summer, primarily to eat the mosquito larvae, but the goldfish then have to come in the house every fall, and I think I have enough of them.
This was supposed to be a column on identifying shrubs and trees, so back to business.
There are 10 species of firs native to the U.S., in the genus Abies, and most of them look like the typical evergreen, dark green and triangular in shape. They are among the longest lived and most symmetrical trees and are well suited for a Christmas tree, although it seems a shame to cut short the life of a tree that could grow to 80 or 90 feet tall and live for 150 years.
A Noble fir can grow to 200 feet and is the longest lived of the firs.
The needles are short and flat in form, pliable and soft. They generally remain on the tree for several years before they fall, and the cones are held upright on the branches and do not drop naturally, but disintegrate in place on the tree, scattering seeds as they fall apart.
At first glance, a spruce may look very similar to a fir, but there are significant differences. The cones give the first clue, as they hang from the branches. The needles vary in color from almost yellow, bluish and true green, and are stiff and spiny square in cross section.
The Norway spruce is the most common of the spruces found in Ohio; they are comparatively fast growing and have become popular as windbreaks. They were introduced to this country from Europe. Other common varieties are the white spruce and the Colorado spruce.
To remember the difference: fir needles feel furry and spruce needles are spiny.