Reverting Back

by Phil Caldwell

White spruce, Picea glauca, although probably not as common as Norway or Colorado Spruce, is often seen in landscapes. Probably the most common form of White Spruce is Picea glauca ‘Conica,’ better known as Dwarf Alberta Spruce. Dwarf Alberta, in my opinion, is often overplanted, probably because of the need for a fairly compact, pyramidal evergreen that stays small and grows slowly. Alberta is one of the few that fits that requirement. Actually, it may be overplanted because the choices are limited.

The history and habit of Dwarf Alberta Spruce is kind of interesting. In the early 1900s seedlings were found by plant people from the Arnold Arboretum, under a White Spruce in Alberta, Canada, that appeared much smaller and to have a tighter growth habit. After transplanting several of these seedlings and growing them on for several years, many remained dwarf and the cuttings propagated from them also formed dwarf plants. Hence the introduction of Picea glauca ‘Conica,’ better known as Dwarf Alberta Spruce. The seedlings were from a “Witches broom” on the White Spruce, a genetic mutation or abnormality sometimes found on conifers. Some witches brooms are caused by insect or disease problems and must be destroyed, but the more interesting and beneficial brooms are usually the source of cuttings used to introduce new varieties of dwarf conifers. Many dwarf pine and spruce varieties are the result of witches brooms.

In the case of Dwarf Alberta, and some other plants introduced from witches brooms, the cultivar can revert back. Have you ever seen a Dwarf Alberta with a full sized spruce growing out the side of it? Not far from my house there is a very boring entryway planting that includes two Dwarf Albertas, one on each side of the company sign. The plants are fairly sizeable by Dwarf Alberta standards, probably about 8-10 feet tall and quite full. One of the plants looks perfectly normal, the second plant has a Spruce tree, about 5 feet tall growing out the upper side of it where it has reverted back to it›s natural habit. Needles and growth rate are no longer like Dwarf Alberta, but rather their habit is typical of White spruce. I have no idea what percentage of the Albertas revert back to common White Spruce, but the number is quite small and this doesn’t present a problem. If you ever notice this abnormal growth, it can simply be pruned when it is only a few inches in size. Lack of attention, or maybe even lack of knowledge, is the only reason the crazy full grown trees continue to grow.

Doesn’t Mother Nature constantly create fascinating interest in the plant world!

— Phil Caldwell is a past president of NHLA (1989) who now lives and works in Maine.    


by Cris Blackstone, NHCLP

I will be starting an Instagram account for NHLA work in January. The audience will be anyone interested in NHLA work/activities/education events, AND your work in the field that can show dedication to education, professionalism, or related topics. Have you visited a public garden, seen something particularly interesting at a job site, or offered a training session for your team? Do you have a photo of anything like those mentioned, or a photo that captures the essence of NHLA’s work with the natural world, with best management practices visible?

Please consider sending me photos of you, your crew, your work, places you have visited that we’d all find interesting. I am hoping the people who will eventually see this Instagram site will get the sense that landscapers are professionals, with multi-faceted ways to express that professionalism. This will not be a chance to advertise your business, per se, and won’t be an infomercial site or a sponsored site. My goal is to use Instagram as another outlet for folks to see landscape ideas / landscape projects / NHLA / as a cohesive group, promoting great ways to interact with the properties in the photos. While your company name will be used as a part of the post, this site will primarily be promoting NHLA as the source for professional resources and great ideas to consider.

Send your photos to Maybe even easier, you can text photos to me at 603-738-2195, if you prefer that method. Thanks, in advance, for your thoughts on more ways we can reach our public with the message that “NHLA = professional development, and that equals landscapers you’d like to see working for you!” I hope everyone considers photos as a great way to get that message across in 2020. There are bound to be some dramatic winter scenes on the horizon, and I hope to see some tropical pics from those of you who take a vacation before the spring clean-ups begin.

2020 NHCLP Exam & Review Classes

Do you know someone interested be becoming certified? Let them know about the upcoming exam and review classes.

New Hampshire Landscape Certified Professional (NHCLP) Exam

The next certification exam, WRITTEN portion only, will be offered Saturday March 7, 2020.

For more information and to download the registration forms visit the NHLA website:

Review classes for the NHCLP Exam

This course reviews information in the manual for people who are taking the NHCLP exam. It is also open to non-exam takers.

Material covered:

  • Session 1: Botany, Soils, Fertilizers, Composting
  • Session 2: Plant Identification, Plant Nomenclature, Plant Hardiness, Native and Invasive Plants
  • Session 3: Turf, Planting Instructions, Plant Maintenance, Safety
  • Session 4: Landscape Design, Hardscape, Bidding and Estimating

Dates: Tuesdays and Thursdays February 25, 27, and March 3, 5, 2020

Time: 6:00-9:00 pm

Fee: $25.00 per session or $75 for 4 sessions

To Register: Download the form from the NHLA website NHCLP Review Course page, complete and return with payment.