The winner is ...

The winner of the new-tree sweepstakes: Picea pungens 'Iseli fastigiate,' a Colorado blue spruce, described as "extremely ornamental" by Iseli Nursery, which bred it. There are many things we liked about it. Its color - steely blue - is sublime. Its shape - a cross between a fat cigar and a svelt barrel - is pretty. And its size: just right for the space in our garden. We both fell in love with it on the spot. In fact, Randy kept hugging it.

And how's this for a nice touch, one I didn't realize till we'd made the decision. This fall I visited the Iseli Nursery in Portland, Ore., a place with some of the most beautiful conifers I've ever seen. And there's a personal angle. My son, his wife and their new baby daughter live in Colorado, so in some small way, this brings us all geographically closer. (If only!)

hugger

It will grow about 12 inches a year, which suits us fine.

Our new tree arrives next week.

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