My white spruce in the summerEver since my husband and I bought and planted the fir trees in our garden, we have received advice on how to care for them. We have two fir trees: a white spruce and a white fir, each planted in a corner of our yard.

The white spruce is the one which made pine cones last year and the one which grew taller - so far. Its Latin name is Picea abies and it is also called the Norway spruce. It is a spruce species, native to Eastern, Northern and Central Europe. It was the first gymnosperm to have its genome sequenced and one clone has been measured as 9,550 years old. It is a large and fast-growing evergreen coniferous tree growing up to 115 to 180 feet (35-55m) tall, with a trunk diameter between 40 and 60 inches (1-1.5m).

In its first 25 years, it can grow very fast, with 3 feet of growht (1m) per year, under good conditions - which I certainly provided to mine, especially thorough watering after the hot summer days. This species' rate of growth slows after reaching 65 feet (20m) in height. The Norway spruce is mostly planted for its wood and it's the most used as Christmas tree all over the world, because of its perfect shape. Norway spruce red pollen sacs
Leaves are needle-like, with blunt tips, quadrangular in section and dark green on all four sides. The seed cones are the longest of any spruce between 3.5 and 6.5 inches (9-17 cm) long. They are green or reddish, maturing to brown after 5-7 months from pollination.[1]

I wasn't expecting my spruce to make seed cones so soon--at just eight years old--because I read somewhere on the internet that it reaches maturity (which means making cones) at 20 years old. But maybe I misread it. At any rate, it doesn't matter anymore, because my white spruce has already reached maturity at the ripe old age of eight! Imagine my surprise when I saw all those small red pollen sacs (male cones) and the female reddish cones! I took dozens of pictures of each male and female cones, but I won't post them all here in this article - maybe just two, one of each male and female cone. That was happening last April and in November the cones have started to fall, which means it took them 7 months to mature.
Norway spruce reddish female conesMaybe the early maturity of my Norway spruce shouldn't surprise me because I took such good care of it. As I said, I received many good advice from my friends, regarding conifers' care.

The first advice was how a fir tree shoudl be planted, which is a big secret, that only conifer growers know. The man who brought us the fir trees, who had a lifetime experience in growing trees, told us that I have to plant each fir tree with the longer branch to the North, otherwise it might not thrive - which I did and they did thrive very well.

The second piece of advice, from another friend -also very experienced and who also has a degree in horticulture- was that I should trim back the lower branches every year, during winter, to allow the tree's healthy growth. This is what I've been doing every year around Christmas, as I said before, which most probably made my white spruce to grow so well. Only I didn't cut back all the lower branches, but only those which were the lowest, while trying to preserve the trees perfect shape, in the same time.

Trimming one or two lower branches, which are so large, allows me to make some Christmas decorations, which I The lower branches I cut from my white sprucelike so much. That's why I choose to trim it on that very particular time of the winter. I could have trimmed it later, in February, when I'm trimming back the other trees and shrubs, but what would I do with the branches? It would be such a shame to throw away the beautiful twigs, without enjoying their beauty for the last time, moreover, without having the opportunity to learn how to make different Christmas decorations, which I've never made before. Not to mention the tradition of having wreaths on the Christmas table and on my door, a Christmas railing or a Christmas garland for my living room. Why buy it from the market, when I have my own fir tree?

Year after year, my Norway spruce grows bigger and bigger, so that only one or two lower branches are providing enough twigs for the decorations I need to do.

The last decoration I've learned how to make is a nice garland which I used to decoratie my living room. I've always used a glitter garland for decorating my closed bookcase (since I don't have a fireplace), but now I've learned how to make a garland with my white spruce twigs, which is far more beautiful than a simple glitter garland.

Making a garland is simple. I only need a long twine and a wire, both as long as I need my garland to be.
First I cut all the twigs from the branches and separate them by their size. I'll use the short ones for the wreath and the longer ones for the garland and railing. Same as for the railing, I match a few twigs in a clump and tie it with the wire to the twine. I make a knot on the twine to make an eye splice for hanging the garland.

White fir twigs, twine and wire Making an eye splice with the twine

Then I tie up the wire to the twine and I can start tying up the twig clumps. Each clump gets tied to the twine with the wire, alternating one up and one under the previous one, tying carefully the next clump to the previous one, so the garland won't break off.

Tying the wire to the twine Tying the twig clump with the wire to the twine

The last clump is made of twigs arranged in opposite directions and tied altogether, so the end gets beautiful tips too.

Turning the garland on the other side to tie up another twig clump Last clump formed with 2 opposite clumps

I cut the wire and make another eye splice at the end of the garland which it is now ready to be decorated. Same as for the railing, I decorated the garland with fake golden poinsettias I made myself, a glitter garland and a few red bells. Moreover, I liked to light it with some Christmas lights.

My decorated garland hanging on the closed bookcase in my living room My decorated garland hanging on the closed bookcase in my living room with Christmas lights on

When Christmas arrived, I was ready to trim back my fir trees. This past year I cut back some of the lower branches from the white fir too, which made my Christmas decorations even more beautiful. If you have a fir tree, don't be afraid to trim it! - now's the perfect time! But remember, cut back only the lower branches, if you want to have a beautiful fir tree like mine.

[1] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Picea_abies