Evergreens are popular this month, so I thought I would feature our native white pine, Pinus strobus, and its relatives. This is my favorite evergreen for winter containers as it lends a graceful note, draping over the edges. Needles on this pine appear
of 5 and are soft to the touch. The bounty of pine needles dropping in fall is terrific, and we go out to collect them for mulching woodland gardens, bearded iris, and for use in our winter protection program. The squirrels and I also enjoy collecting pine cones for different purposes!
One of the things that encouraged me to move to Townsend was the prevalent scent of pine needles in summer. It seemed like a hint of the north country. Many of us live surrounded by woods where the tall white pines dominate. As they mature, this tree can reach 100 feet tall and drops its lower limbs naturally. There is sometimes a danger of failure if these trees are double or triple trunked or if they grow in soft soil. White pines are very shallow rooted! Regular inspection by a certified arborist is recommended if you have one or more white pines in your yard. They can be carefully pruned to reduce weight and minimize chances of failure.
Your landscape may be more suited to one of the columnar white pine cultivars such as
Pinus flexilis ‘Vanderwolf’s Pyramid.’ Reaching only 20′-35′ in height and much narrower in form than the Eastern white pine, this plant also retains its lower limbs and is useful for screening purposes. It is native to the Rocky Mountains but does well in New England. The needles have a blue-green cast with a bit of a twist that is very attractive.
Consider also the dwarf selections of Eastern white pines. Perfect for a rock garden or among low perennials on a slope, ‘Sea Urchin,’ ‘Soft Touch,’ or ‘Shaggy Dog’ can be sited as interesting specimens. Their growth is very slow and requires only occasional pruning. We do this work at two points during the year to prevent sticky sap on our pruners and bleeding on the trunks: 95 degree weather in summer or when temperatures drop around 20 degrees in late fall.