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Old spruces hard to live with, hard to let go


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#1 Janet Macunovich

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Posted 15 March 2012 - 08:32 PM

Came in by email; promises to come here to follow up! So:

Hi Janet, As always, you were informative, funny, and down-to-earth at the Northville Community Center this past Monday night. You mentioned large spruce trees and that is one of my problems. Our spruces are over 20 years old and were planted to provide an accent at each end of our yard. The past years have found them to be more and more sparse with bottom branches dying off and providing no privacy at all. Such height, such pitiful see-thru bottoms.

To top it off, our new neighbors put their kids' very tall wooden climbing structure right in line with our bedroom window. A landscaper thought hemlocks would grow well between the spruces, so planted three of them last year, but as you will see they aren't doing much of anything (will they ever?).

So I guess my questions, in the midst of my despair over wanting a beautiful private yard, is what to do with giant trees that provide nothing at the bottom? should I have them removed? What would block the playscape at that height? Should I just move? Thanks so much. - J. K. -

(J.K.'s photos, Janet's narrative)
They're big. And from some angles, look good.
KoppGoodTops4798.jpg

But from down here, they're not so good.
KoppFRomUnder4797.jpg

And at ground level looking across, they're not spruces; they're just posts. Columns.
KoppTrunksNHeml4795.jpg

Tough to say but we do NOT have to commit to every tree for its entire natural life. These trees prove what we say: Colorado spruces are good for 20 years in most landscapes. And this pine was done contributing at 10.



With your photos up here, let's see if anyone has suggestions to add to mine. I hope so.
My thoughts:

That you should take those spruce trees down. And the pine.
KoppPinePlay4791.jpg

The ...maple?... at the far right in the one photo isn't helping your privacy cause, either. If it's a Norway maple it's actively discouraging other plants' growth.
KoppWMaple4792.jpg

Try not to despair about this prospect. Just consider it.

Those trees are doing nothing for you (except from the very long view. Meanwhile, they're doing EVERYthing to discourage and scramble your other plantings' health and looks. Hemlocks tolerate shade, they don't love it, so they are not going to do well there. By the time they take, if they do, they may be scraggly 6' versions of the 60' spruces.
KoppLongView4794.jpg

It will be a big expense, I know, and at first, until the removal, a huge gut wrenching change, but the trees are not healthy, not going to get better, are taking the water and blocking the sun, and their trunks are visual distractions for anything you put up.

I think you will be happy with the change after you get past the separation anxiety.

Leatherleaf viburnum will grow quickly and if strategically placed, give you immediate relief. They are also wider at the top than the bottom which makes them better blockers than other evergreens that are pyramidal.

Densely branched large shrubs and small trees would also help. Japanese crabapple. Kolkwitzia and Vanhoutte spirea. Probably have to move some of the other plants you've put into the gaps, to make the whole new arrangement pleasing.

Help us, you readers? Do you have a property line you re-did and are happy with? What worked? Recommendations about taking the big trees out one at a time or in stages -- or not at all?

#2 Margaret Thele

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Posted 16 March 2012 - 08:14 PM

I love my hedge of upright taxus. While it has grown to about five feet in 16 years I keep pruning every year to keep it about that height. It is dense and a great screen. Let some upright taxus go to town in a mixed shrub border for year round screening. In the back a dense hedge of arborvitae has done well with little care. I know these are mundane choices but they are readily available...
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#3 Daniel Davis

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Posted 19 April 2012 - 12:15 PM

With the consideration of taking out the spruce trees - increase sunlight will increase plant growth, increase plant selection options and can also look at selections like ornamental grasses (several varieties of Miscanthus and Panicum that could provide a quick 6" or taller screen)

#4 Cricket

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Posted 24 April 2012 - 10:01 PM

We suddenly found ourselves in a dilemms with roots from spruce and ash encroaching on the drain field for our septic system. We're in the middle of a 5 year process of removing spruce and ash trees. The plan started with removal of the two spruce in the worst condition and the ash between them. This created better air flow and more sunlight which allowed several nearby shrubs to thrive since competition with spruce roots was gone.

#5 Janet Macunovich

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Posted 29 April 2012 - 08:15 AM

Heard back from J.K. via email (some people don't want to be on a Forum and we can respect that) that they have begun to get bids to take the trees down, at least a few to start.

#6 Barbp

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Posted 09 July 2012 - 09:25 PM

Similar to J.K., we have Colorado spruces along our fence line and, yes, they are 20 years old. (If only I had known then what I know now!). My husband decided to get rid of the scraggly parts which resulted in, what can only be described as, the Michigan chainsaw massacre. Although I loved the privacy and how they looked when healthy, the decision to remove them is easy now because they look pathetic and serve no purpose. What to replace them with?? The area gets full sun and privacy is my top priority. I'm thinking of an evergreen shrub that reaches no more than about eight feet. Suggestions please!!! Thanks.

#7 Laura

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Posted 29 March 2020 - 05:46 PM

I know this is many years later but I'm going through the same thing.  I had 5 blue spruce with needle cast disease cut down early last winter and I'm now planning a diverse hedge row to take the place of the row of spruce.  It's been fun researching what trees and shrubs I would like for 4 season interest and bird watching.

Cutting down the spruce was a painful decision but the only way to move forward to improve my landscape and help the environment.



#8 Janet Macunovich

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Posted 09 April 2020 - 09:54 PM

Congratulations on making that step. It is so hard!






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