Abies Silver fir

An important genus of evergreen, predominantly cone- shaped, conifers. It is easily distinguished from the genus Picea (qv) with the aid of the following aide memoire. In the case of Picea a small strip of bark will come off if a young needle is pulled off a twig; in the case of Abies the needle will break off without bark.

Situation Not suitable for small gardens, since the trees will grow to several metres in width within a few years. In somewhat larger gardens these firs can make an effective background; some species are also suitable for growing singly. Choose a sunny position if possible, out of the wind.

Soil Most species grow best in acid soil. Abies grandis and Abies pinsapo tolerate a certain amount of lime, and Abies cephalonica likes chalky soil.

Abies koreana

Above: Abies koreana

Abies pinsapo Glauca

Above: Abies pinsapo Glauca

Propagation If possible from seed. Occasionally grafted or grown from cuttings.

Abies balsamea, balsam fir: 15-25 m tall tree, 4-6 m across;

dark-green needles. ‘Nana’ is a dwarf form, dome-shaped, growing to about 80 cm.

Abies cephalonica, Greek fir: Height to 20 m; sharp dark- green needles, entirely surrounding the twigs.

Abies concolor, Colorado fir: Tree growing to 50 m in height, 5 m across, horizontally spreading branches with blue or grey-green needles; young shoots are yellowish in colour. The garden form ‘Candicans’ bears bluish-white needles; in ‘Violacea’ they have a purplish hue.

Abies koreana: Smaller growing, to 15 m; brush-like, erect-growing dark-green needles. Even young plants produce very fine glaucous cones.

Abies pinsapo, Spanish silver fir: Height to 20 m, 5-7 m across; needles dark green, radial. The form ‘Glauca’ bears glaucous needles.

Abies veitchii: Tree to 25 m, 4-5 m across; the dark-green needles are silvery white beneath. Most needles are situ- ated on the upper side of the shoots and point towards the tip.

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