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Winter’s Perfect Sized Pine

The number one request when I am designing a garden is, make it low-maintenance. The solution is actually quite simple: select plants of appropriate mature size and habit for the space, and space them out accordingly in the garden.

PEOPLE ASK FOR EVERGREENS THAT WILL GROW FAST, and provide winter interest and dense screening. Many common evergreens like pine and spruce are readily available, but be aware that some are huge, and when mature grow 50-75 feet or more in height and can be 45 feet wide. They are also often planted way too close together. But not to worry, as there are many smaller beautiful evergreens to choose from; it just takes a little searching.

VANDERWOLF’S PYRAMID LIMBER PINE, Pinus flexilis, is one vigorous but much smaller pine and pyramidal in shape as the name suggests. This Limber pine has all the positive characteristics of its parent, but the added advantage of only growing 20 to 30 feet tall and 10 to 15 feet wide. The Limber pines are known to be dense and fill in nicely when young, with growth slowing naturally after 10 years or so as they mature.

VERY ADAPTABLE PLANTS IN THE LANDSCAPE, they do prefer average but moist soil that is well-drained. Full sun is best for dense growth, and water well the first year after planting to help with root establishment.

BLUISH GREEN NEEDLES ARE HELD IN BUNDLES of five and can be 2-3.5 inches long with a slight twist, giving it an interesting texture. The branches are in fact quite flexible and slightly weeping as they move in the wind beautifully. This pine makes a wonderful addition to the garden, is manageable in size, and beautiful year-round.

by Angie McManus

Q I recently panicked and cut off some brown pine-like cones appearing on some of my Green Giant arborvitaes. I have since learned from your Web site that these brown cones are a normal fertilizing process of the female tree, and these seeds are needed. Have I done some damage to the trees, and should I spread the cones around the trees to help fertilize them in the spring?

A Arborvitae ‘Green Giant,’ Thuja plicata, produces pine cones that are much smaller than ones we typically see on other conifers. The purpose of the pine cones is reproduction. It is basically a shelter for seeds to live in until they are mature and ready to be released and planted.

After this evergreen flowers, it produces separate male and female cones on the same tree, which technically are considered fruit. The male cones are round and found at the ends of the foliage, while the female cones are a bit more elongated in shape and slightly larger at maturity. While they are green during the summer months, as they mature they turn brown.

There is no reason to remove the pine cones. You have not jeopardized the health of your tree by doing so this year. You could not have possibly removed all of them, and pine cone production generally differs every year depending on moisture, temperature, and other environmental factors. You can leave the cones around the tree base, although they will not provide nutrients to the tree.

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