Picea orientalis 'Skylands' / Skylands Caucasian spruce

Picea orientalis 'Skylands' is a robust symmetrical upright selection of Caucasian spruce with tiered branching holding fantastic golden needles held tightly against the stem. Older, interior foliage is more of a typical deep green. The contrast is striking. In spring, the display is amplified with the emergence or cherry red pollen and seed cones. 'Skylands' is truly an exceptional plant.

When young, plants critically need shelter from intense sun until roots completely develop. In fact, immature specimens burn so badly that many "give up" on them. Gardeners have been known to erect sun shelters to protect their young trees from the sun. Once mature, the plants are quite tolerant of full sun.

After 10 years of growth, a mature specimen will measure 12 to 15 feet (4 - 5 m) tall and 5 feet (1.6 m) wide, an annual growth rate of 12 to 18 inches (30 - 45 cm).

This cultivar was "found" in 1950, growing at random at Skylands Gardens, part of the New Jersey Botanical Gardens at Ringwood, New Jersey now known as Ringwood State Park. Over the years it has been a seed parent for many of the dwarf Picea orientalis in the trade. In the past it was sometimes seen listed under the cultivar name, 'Aurea Compacta.' However, 'Skylands' has become so popular over time that this is not likely ever the case today.

Picea orientalis 'Skylands' — typical habit of the species but slow-developing in early years. Glowing yellow year around. More green contrast on lower, shaded interior.
Photo by Iseli Nursery, Inc.
Picea orientalis 'Skylands' The foliage of the Caucasian spruce is finer and softer than other spruce.
Photo by Charlene Harris
Picea orientalis 'Skylands' — a 12-year old, 4.5 foot tall specimen with a 3.5 foot spread at the base. It receives shade from winter sun and late summer sun, which may cause some burning.
Photo by Charlene Harris
Picea orientalis 'Skylands' — a photo record donated by Richard and Susan Eyre.
Photo by Rich Eyre
Picea orientalis 'Skylands' in the Harper Collection of Dwarf & Rare Conifers at Hidden Lake Gardens, Tipton, Michigan. Photo from August of 2005. Pictured is the larger of two plants on the grounds.
Photo by Dax Herbst
Picea orientalis 'Skylands' in the Bickelhaupt Arboretum, Clinton, Iowa in the Heartland Collection of Garden Conifers. Photo from March of 2004.
Photo by Dax Herbst
New growth - Churchville, NY
The pollen cones of Picea orientalis ‘Skylands.'
Photo by Randall C. Smith/Iseli Nursery


Carol McLeod

We planted a Picea orientalis 'Skylands' 3-4 years ago. It was probably about 4 feet tall at the time. It has grown 5 feet since that time. This is a much greater growth rate that we expected and we are concerned that the tree will become too large for its site. The first season we had to create a new leader because the original one was destroyed by borers. We have yet to see cones on the tree. We live in the Northeast U.S. about 40 miles north of NYC.
Is pruning for height and width a good practice for this tree? If so, how and when.

many thanks for your help.

David Olszyk

Hi Carol, 'Skylands' is officially a fast-growing tree, meaning it wants to grow 12 inches or more per year for a very long time. Personally, I never prune spruce. We only get 1 push of growth each year and it's easy to mess it up. Sadly, you appear to have selected the wrong plant for the right space.

See that plant in the gallery above from Iseli nursery. I've visited that particular tree many times. It's easily 50 feet tall and has been in the ground for only 25 years. It's not slowing down anytime soon.