Forty years ago, the Norway Spruce (Picea abies) was probably the most hated tree in Britain, with swathes of the countryside being smothered with them by the Forestry Commission, typified by Kielder Forest. It has probably swapped places with Sitka Spruce (P. sitchensis) these days so far as forestry is concerned, which is a better looking tree to my mind, but uncomfortable to get hold of. Meanwhile the Forestry Commission’s raison d’être has fortunately completely changed, so the era of pure conifer planting is probably over, except for the still flourishing Christmas Tree trade, which has begun using more appealing species these days.
This line of trees is of Norway Spruce of course, and was planted about forty years ago, by our next door neighbour. What made him choose Norway Spruce is a mystery. The idea was to provide a windbreak, for which it serves a limited purpose (windbreaks need to consist of a great deal more than a line of trees to be effective). The photograph is actually ten years old, and not a lot has changed since, apart from the lower branches being cleaned up a bit. There are several spindly individuals that I want to take out this winter, partly to add presence to the remaining ones, but also to provide useful posts and poles. The trees do at least provide a bit of habitat enjoyed by our Goldcrests, and from time to time, Crossbills, among other birds. The trees also shed a prodigious quantity of needles, at all times of the year, which stick together and block gutters and drainpipes all too easily.
Occasionally, we have a violent thunderstorm right overhead accompanied by a cloudburst, last night being one, which helps to bring down a lot of needles, and once they are down, gathering them up conveniently to make them a little easier to clear away. It takes a great deal of heavy rain to create drifts of needles like this. It does not make good compost on its own, but should be very useful in connection with the next big job in the garden – composting the green weeds that the non-summer has produced everywhere.