By David Schreier
‘Roundabout’ Colorado Spruce: An Indispensable Accent for the Home Landscape
In their various forms, spruces are exceedingly useful and ornamental. The large types are especially valuable for park and estate planting and the slower growing species for the home grounds. They can serve as hedges in smaller yards if pruned regularly. For use near the house, in rock gardens and in other locations where space is restricted, there are many slow-growing varieties that never grow more than three feet tall.
One such dwarf variety – ‘Roundabout’ – was discovered at Iseli Nursery as a witches’-broom growing on a Colorado spruce (Picea pungens) ‘Green Spire’, a narrow upright evergreen. A witches’-broom is the ragged cluster of twigs and branches that can be seen growing along trunks and boughs of large deciduous and evergreen trees; they often appear as huge sloppily built bird’s nests. They are caused by insect wounds or a virus attack. Seeds that grow in them produce unexpected offspring, and horticulturalists have found them a rich and fascinating source of mutations. ‘Roundabout’ is such a mutation; it is a compact, bluish green, garden orb. Iseli Nursery describes the slow growing shrub as a “spherical topiary that never needs shearing”.
‘Roundabout’ does best in full sun – six to eight hours of sunlight- and will grow in almost any kind of soil if there is good drainage and sufficient moisture.
This choice dwarf conifer offers the permanence of color that has given evergreens their name and fascination, for it is when flowers fade and deciduous trees bare their limbs that evergreens provide what 19th Century landscape pioneer Andrew Jackson Downing described as “an appearance of verdure and life … which cheats winter of half its dreariness.”