I GENERALLY DON’T LIKE MY CONIFERS SHORN or buy them very big (too uptight for me, and too expensive). But when I met this concolor fir (above) one Christmas at the local nursery, where it was on display at the entry to their holiday shop, I knew we were meant for each other…despite those very issues. Abies concolor ‘Candicans’ is the third in a series on beloved conifers.
I have two other Abies concolor here (I know, there’s evidence of my former “everything in threes” insanity again), the other two grown naturally, unshorn, and therefore quite different-looking. I won’t tell you what I paid for the big guy, all thick and a perfect pyramid and already near 10 feet tall when he came to me to live on my hillside of a backyard, among the crabapples and a giant island of ornamental grasses. The others were scrawny little things, maybe 3 feet high, though each is more than 15 tall now.
The white, or concolor fir, a Western American native species ranging from Colorado to Southern California, New Mexico and into Mexico, can grow to 100 feet in the wild, apparently, but in a garden setting you are more likely to see it get to 30 or maybe 50 feet in time, and half as wide.
Its long needles, which are particularly silvery-blue in the cultivar ‘Candicans,’ curve outward and up. Unlike the Colorado blue spruce, Picea pungens glauca, the fir’s foliage is soft to the touch, far less stiff. It is also far less trouble-prone than the Colorado blue spruce, which if you’ve encountered with a case of spruce gall or spider mites or the canker that can affect lower branches, you will know how disfiguring these issues can be. Stated simply: If you want a big blue pyramidal conifer in Zones 4-7 this fir is it (just not in heavy clay, which it apparently will not tolerate).
I have to confess that though it’s a conifer, I haven’t made much notice of the concolor’s cones. They’re said to be up to 6 inches by an inch and a half, so I don’t know how I could have missed them, unless it was because I have a flashier-coned cousin of it, the Korean fir, Abies koreana, growing right nearby.