Saturday, April 2, 2011

Favorite Trees: tanyosho pine

Here in the northeast I find that our mentality towards evergreens is often more utilitarian. We tend towards the screening trees, Arbovitae and cypress, various spruce and white pine if you have the space. Hedges of holly (Ilex) and Euonymus and yews (Taxus) are tough enough and disappear into the landscape to accent whatever showy characters are planted in front of them. We forget about the potential for evergreens as specimen pieces, as trees you want to look at. Or when we do you go to one of those nursery yards where they put all the odd ornamentals in one spot and then you can't make rhyme or reason of any of them because all of a sudden you are overwhelmed by the brutal assault of yellow, red, and green coniferous foliage. So let me talk about a subtle player who happens to be one of my unconditional favorites in the world of trees.
The straight species of Pinus densiflora is known as Japanese red pine. Japanese red pine are large evergreens, growing 40 feet plus. They have excellent cold tolerance, holding up as far north as USDA Zone 3b. The tree's growth habit is big and kind of floppy so the real characteristic of note is the bark. The bark is orange, with great little scales peeling off over time. Much older trees will have bark that has gone more gray, but the orange tint against the rich green needles is really beautiful stuff. So, back to today's tree, the tanyosho pine is a dwarf cultivar of Pinus densiflora, Pinus densiflora 'Umbraculifera'. Basically it grows vertically with a unique flat-top of foliage, or what Dirr calls an "umbrella-like head". Add to the strong structural design that fabulous rich orange bark and I'm sold. This is a fabulous tree.
Tanyosho pines can get to 10' tall and then some, but they are not necessarily the fastest growers since they are a dwarf variety. Up at NYBG they have a couple that really take my breath away. You have to be careful of heavy snow loads and other such stresses on the more horizontal branches. They are not the most resilient of the vast Pinus genus but I can't say I have ever known this tree to be any kind of pest or disease magnet. Either way this is plant definitely has a spot on the plant list for the yard I don't have yet. Plant young and soon and enjoy them for life.
and sorry these camera pics are not the best quality, I was rushing to an event when I spotted these three guys, but if I can find better shots in the archives I will be sure to post -aef

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