A local nursery provided a large assortment of beautiful plants, including the blue spruce in various sizes. The spruce is a beautiful evergreen tree that can grow to significant sizes with soft needles and a deep blue-green color. The homeowner had often admired the spruce, so with the assurances of the nursery owner about the suitability of the spruce for the local climate, they had three planted in a group within feet of the backyard fence.
The first year was rather dry, but two of the trees flourished. The smallest tree seemed to suffer and was watered more often. The second year was even dryer and July and August were hotter than usual. The smallest tree died in spite of being lovingly cared for.
That winter, the mid-sized tree began to look stressed and by mid-April, it was obvious the tree was not going to make it. The needles were a sickly shade of brown/green, and the lower branches began to drop off. By September, it was dead. The largest tree survived one more year.
There was one major problem that primarily affected these trees and caused their early demise: Too much water.
The spruce trees were planted in the side yard fairly near the fence line shared with a neighbor. During hot dry weather, both homeowners watered regularly with irrigation systems that produced a higher volume of water than was good for the trees. The blue spruce is indigenous to temperate Colorado where the rainfall is moderate and the soil generally rocky. Even a heavy rain produces runoff, not standing pools of water. This was the most damaging event where the water was not draining properly but standing, sometimes in ankle-deep puddles, down the entire fence line. Then, it would eventually rain compounding the problem.
Plant trees and shrubs that do not require large amounts of water in areas where drainage is excellent and ensure that the irrigation system in the area is not producing an overabundance of water during any application. If the trees are already in the ground where water is accumulating, a French drain should alleviate the problem. Also, sprinkler heads may be capped if there appears to be too many. Hiring a landscape specialist to add decorative rock and soil to build up the area around the fence line will facilitate drainage.