Ski Club

Garden Clippings for Feb 17, 2018

Winter is not my favorite time of year.  Far too cold for my liking.  It gets dark before supper and darkness lingers till after breakfast.  The snow is a nuisance.  And all through winter, I can’t watch things grow.

Winter is not my favorite time of year.  Unless I am skiing.  Each to their own, but methinks skiing is far better than chasing a wee white ball over acres of lawn, far better than grown men confusingly pursing a brown ball that’s not round but pointed on both ends, and far better than two teams with a bat and ball running around a square they call a diamond.

Three years ago I joined the Bluewater Ski Club.  I should have joined 20 years ago.  Maybe thirty.

A few weeks ago, nearly 50 members of the Ski Club traipsed off to Sun Peaks, near Kamloops in the B.C. interior.  For a week, winter was my favorite time of year.  The weather was superb.  It snowed often, the sun shone often and clouds rolled in often enough to make skiing even more worthwhile.

Doubly impressive for me were the towering conifers that we skied through, in, and around.  While on the chairlift someone asked me what kind of trees they were and I responded with “Please don’t ask me, I’m on vacation.”

Truth is, I didn’t know.  An internet search didn’t reveal the answer so I contacted my friend Maury Hik of Art Knapp’s Plantland in Kamloops who said the trees were White Spruce.

“Seriously” I asked?

“Yup, our forests are filled with them” he explained.  “It’s my favorite tree here, and I recommend them all the time because they grow famously around here.”

A little more research on my part gave me an education on White Spruce (PIcea glauca).  Turns out that White Spruce growing in the West Coast has a far different growth habit than the same tree growing in Ontario.

White Spruce is a native Canadian evergreen that grows in all regions of Canada and through much of the United States.  It is perhaps Canada’s hardiest tree, growing freely in the southern tip of Ontario at Point Pelee, right up to Ontario’s most northerly regions.  White Spruce is Manitoba’s official provincial tree.

In British Columbia’s interior, White Spruce will grow up to 40 metres tall.  It rarely is found in solitude, preferring to grow in crowded strands where it can stretch skyward yet only reach a width of about one metre.  White Spruce’s main stem is arrow straight with side shoots that are few and far between.  This growth habit makes White Spruce a perfect tree for the lumber industry.

Plant the same White Spruce in southern Ontario, and the tree has a remarkably different growth habit.  Our dry summers and colder winters will cause White Spruce to achieve a height of up to 25 metres, with a width of 7 or 8 metres.  Its main trunk is straight, with strong, dense side shoots that provide shelter for all kinds of birds.  For Ontario gardeners, White Spruce is perfect to provide windbreak and privacy.  It is less than ideal for logging because of its shorter height and bushy branches.

White Spruce is both draught tolerant and will reasonably withstand swampy soils.  It is disease resistant and for Ontario, is not bothered by pests.  Plant White Spruce as a solo lawn specimen or in clusters where they are allowed to grow together.