Picea orientalis 'Tom Thumb Gold' / Tom Thumb Gold Caucasian spruce

Picea orientalis 'Tom Thumb Gold' is a miniature to dwarf selection of Caucasian spruce that grows as a flattened disk when young, becoming a very flattened cone with age. This dense, bright-gold cushion grows at an extremely slow yearly rate of about 1 inch ( 2.5 cm), mostly outward. After 10 years in the garden, a well-managed specimen will be about 12 inches (30 cm) wide and 6 inches (15 cm) tall. 'Tom Thumb Gold' presents itself best in a location receiving a half day's sun exposure at the most, preferably in the morning. Given too much sun, the foliage tends to burn, too little and the plant turns green.

This cultivar originated as a witch's broom discovered in the mid-1970s, when John Verkade Nursery, Neshanic Station, New Jersey, shipped specimens of Picea orientalis 'Skylands' to Halstead Wells, owner of Tom Thumb Nursery, in Nyack, New York. Wells noticed that one of the plants from Verkade Nursery had a small witch's broom in it, that measured 4 inches (10 cm) at the time. After discussion with John Verkade, Wells sent the specimen back to Verkade Nursery in order for them to bring the new dwarf selection into production.

Click on this link to view a document by former ACS President, Frank Goodhart, that details the history and process of establishing this unique and historic cultivar.

Verkade Nursery provisionally named it [ Compacta Aurea Tom Thumb ], and occasionally [ Tom Thumb W/B ]. Later Bob Fincham modernized the name into 'Tom Thumb Gold', a name which prevails to current day. This plant is often seen in the nursery trade with the abbreviated cultivar name, 'Tom Thumb,' a commercial name initiated by the nursery industry apparently to save time and money on plant tags.

'Tom Thumb Gold' was one of two selections made in 2007 for the ACS Collectors Conifer of the Year program.

Picea orientalis 'Tom Thumb Gold,' a magificent old specimen at the Jean Iseli memorial garden, Boring, Oregon.
Photo by David Olszyk
Picea orientalis 'Tom Thumb Gold,' a young plant at Porterhowse Farms, Sandy, Oregon, USA.
Photo by Stephen Grubb
Picea orientalis 'Tom Thumb Gold,' a nice specimen in garden setting. Photo taken in August 2004.
Photo by Bill Barger
Picea orientalis 'Tom Thumb Gold, ' a closeup of foliage. Note the golden tone.
Photo by Bill Barger
'Tom Thumb Gold' at Glacier's End Arboretum, Olympia, WA. Bob Fincham of Coenosium Gardens grafted this specimen onto a standard, a stunning presentation.
Photo by David Olszyk
Picea orientalis 'Tom Thumb Gold' in Maine, 2nd year since planting.
Photo by Wynne Keller


Wynne Keller

For me, this plant seems to want a bit of shade. I actually used shade cloth the first year as the foliage was burning. The second year, the cloth wasn't needed and the plant looks great. Gets about 5 hrs sun.

Rick Deihl

I've had 3 Tom Thumb Golds, 1 on a short standard and 2 purchased on the west coast (Seattle area) but none has survived more than a month or so. They don't burn, they just slowly turn brown and die. Planted in different sun conditions; 1 in full morning sun and two in fairly shaded areas(morning sun also), and watered reasonably(?) regularly. Any idea what's going wrong? I've given up on them at this point!

Maxwell Cohn

your description suggests that the plants were dead before you even planted them. Is it possible that they were planted too deep (buried and smothered root crown?) ... That'll take out a miniature conifer pretty quick.