"If I dry, I die."
It was Christmas time, about a decade ago. I considered the handwritten sign propped in front of some dwarf alberta spruces for sale at a local nursery. I was searching for some greenery to place on each end of the fireplace mantel in my living room. These Christmas tree shaped plants, each about a foot tall, seemed just right. I visualized how they would look in gold pots. I studied the tag. Acid soil, sun, zones 3 to 8. That's pushing it. I am zone 7b, but I usually look for plants that will go to zone 9, to make sure they will make it through our hot summers. However, I reasoned that although the alberta spruces might not like our heat, with enough water they could survive.
I purchased two of them and took them home to their gold pots.
The living room fireplace doesn't get much sun, so the plan was to keep the plants on the mantel through the Christmas season, then transplant them to larger outdoor pots. I would put them on the patio in a sunny spot near the water hydrant, so I could keep them watered easily. That was the plan.
The dwarf alberta spruces were perfect for the fireplace mantel. They were the perfect size, and they were the perfect accent to the oil painting that hung between them. I postponed moving them. I thought about getting some artificial ones to take their place, but I don't like fake plants. No plastic or silk for me. No way.
Six months later the dwarf alberta spruces were still in my living room. I was watering them one day when I was horrified to find brown needles throughout the center of each plant. I get emotionally attached to my plants, and these little guys had stuck to a spot right close to my heart. I felt guilty. I had kept them inside way, way too long. I took them outside to examine them in the bright light. It was bad. If I cut off all the dead branches, the spruces would look terrible.
Or maybe not.
As I studied the plants, I had an idea. I got my pruners. Snip, snip, snip. Snip, snip, snip. Voila! I now had two matched topiary trees, each with a large ball at the bottom and a smaller ball at the top. Why, people pay money for things that look like that. I smiled as I repotted them and put them in their permanent location.
I maintained the double ball look until recently. By now the dwarf alberta spruces had outgrown their pots, and the lower balls were looking scruffy, so in November I transplanted them to larger pots and completely trimmed off the lower balls. I planted pansies at the base of each plant, and I am happy with the new grown-up look.
By the way, I eventually bought two small artificial Christmas trees to go on the mantel for the holidays. They look fine, and I don't have to water them at all.