How long does it take?

Did you know it takes more than eight years to grow an Alberta spruce into a #5* spiral? If they “stuck” the Alberta spruce liner in a #1* pot today, it would be ready for sale in the year 2018. And really, who can guess how many #5 Alberta spruce spirals the country will want in eight years?!?

*To create a common language for growers and buyers, and to comply with new consumer regulations, pots sizes should no longer refer to volume. For example, plants sold in what we used to commonly refer to as 1-gallon pots, are now called #1 containers. The #2 and #5 pots referred to in this article essentially correspond to a 2-gallon and 5-gallon pot, respectively.

I asked Brian Jacob from Monrovia’s Dayton nursery to share with me what it takes to produce a quality Alberta spruce in it’s more natural conical share and in topiary form. After seeing his descriptions of the labor and other inputs required to grow the plants, it seems to me that they are a bargain at just about any price.

#2* Spiral form
• #1 plant is shifted to a #2 container and is placed on the ground can-tight (cans all pressed tightly together) to conserve space since the foliage is far from reaching the perimeter of the can
• #2 plants are moved into a spaced pattern after about one year before foliage from adjacent plants begin to touch
• Initial shaping into spiral eight months later
• Two additional prunings refine spiral form one and two years after initial shaping
• Typically sold about four years after #1 plant canned into a #2 container

#5* Conical form
• #1 plant is shifted to a #5 container and is placed on the ground can-tight
• #5 plants are spaced about 15 months later and are immediately sheared to define ideal conical form and give the plant greater density
• Another light pruning nine months later defines the final form
• Typically sold about two years after #1 plant canned into #5 container

#5* 3-Ball Poodle form
• #1 plant is shifted to a #5 container and is placed on the ground can-tight
• #5 plants are spaced about 15 months later
• Initial shaping into poodle form 11 months later
• Two additional prunings are done to refine spiral form one and two years after initial shaping
• Typically sold about 3- 1/2 years after #1 plant canned into #5 container

Additionally, Monrovia individually stakes each plant to the ground with metal stakes with an air hammer to prevent them from blowing over.

Alberta spruce is susceptible to several bugs and the nursery regularly scouts for mites and aphids and treats as necessary. Early detection of any pest problem allows them to use labor and the least toxic chemicals, if any, to control the pests.

A pre-emergent herbicide is applied in winter to reduce the amount of hand weeding although they also pull by hand any weeds that appear in the containers.

Monrovia does not top dress with fertilizer; instead they incorporate fertilizer into their soils and inject a small amount of nitrogen into their irrigation water. Though any irrigation run-off is collected and contained on our property, they have reduced the amount of nitrogen in their fertilizer water to minimize the chance that nitrates could leave the nursery and enter the ground water.

To view Monrovia’s beautiful online plant catalog, visit www.monrovia.com. They have a very informative Web site.