Another conifer that will grow a hundred feet in a century is the Douglas spruce. Indeed, I saw one at Dropmore, one' hundred and seventeen feet high, with a spread of one hundred feet, which came from the first lot of seeds brought to England in the winter of 1827-28. This is the only hundred-foot conifer I have ever seen that has retained its symmetry. It is a perfect pyramid, the lower branches being all present and resting on the ground. And Mr. Elwes says, "It is a baby to some I know".
The Douglas spruce (see plate 62) illustrates a most important principle. The trees of western Continental coasts are, broadly speaking, interchangeable and so are the trees of eastern Continental coasts, but you cannot expect Western trees to live long in an Eastern country or Eastern in a Western. For example, England can grow the Douglas spruce and other gigantic conifers of the Pacific coast to perfection, and California can grow most of the European trees. Thus the Pacific coast, though socially related to us, is climatically akin to Europe.
Again, the Californian form of the Douglas spruce is not hardy in the East, but its Colorado form is. We could wish that all the California conifers had been able to cross the Great Divide, so that the East might hope to have hardy forms of all these titanic trees. One should never buy Douglas spruces without inquiring whether they came from the California or Colorado stock.
Botanically, the Douglas spruce belongs to a different genus (Pseudotsuga), but for landscape purposes it is a spruce. It is the best spruce England can have, both for ornament and for timber. It will grow sixty feet in forty years in England, and occasionally three feet a year.
The spruce on which America has wasted the most money (doubtless more than a million dollars in the past) is the Norway (Picea excelsa). This is the blackest and gloomiest of conifers and the chief source of the notion (where it exists) that evergreens are monotonous and depressing. One of our worst American traits is that we buy the things that are cheapest at first instead of cheapest in the end. The Norway spruce is the lowest priced conifer because it is the fastest grower and like nearly all other fast growers it is short-lived. It makes a splendid appearance in the nursery, but soon gets shabby. The best dark-coloured spruce that is always radiantly happy in our climate is the Oriental (Picea orientalis).
Our best native spruces are the white and Colorado (P. alba and pungens). England cannot grow a good white spruce, but she grows good Colorado spruces and has an important lesson to teach us about them. With us the Colorado spruce is the most popular of all evergreens, because it has the bluest and therefore the most conspicuous and unnatural colour. Every yard has one, along with other curiosities, and we scatter them all over the place in an effort to make our grounds as different as possible from their environment. On the contrary, we ought to plant chiefly the trees of our neighbourhood, and America will never look happy and mellow until we do. Moreover, we ought never to isolate a Colorado spruce or any other conspicuous object, but use such things to "spice" a composition. Precisely what I mean is shown by the frontispiece.