Friday, December 20, 2013

Old Dwarf Conifers

Those cute little balls of evergreen dwarf conifers seem like they will be small forever, but eventually, of course, they get big. It is sad, sometimes to see old dwarf conifers that have never been pruned because many varieties are so dense they form a solid but shallow encasement of foliage that reveals none of the plant's branching architecture. I did a program recently on dwarf conifers and dug up many of my old slides which included pictures of old plants that, because of their dwarf and slow growing nature, had acquired an interested sort of aged look to them. I am eagerly pruning my own dwarf conifers to try to accelerate that look.

An Austrian pine (Pinus nigra 'Nana') seen many years ago growing at the National Arboretum in Washington D.C. had acquired a venerable and distinguished look while remaining within a reasonable scale for most landscapes.

Japanese umbrella pine (Pinus densiflora 'Umbraculifera') is not a dwarf, but it is a fairly small, slow growing tree a with distinctive growth habit. If it isn't pruned it grows into a very uninteresting solid mass of foliage. The plant pictured above, as seen many years ago at the Cincinnati Zoo had been beautifully pruned to show off its many attractive features such as the orange bark, vase shaped growth habit and flat topped branching.

This dwarf eastern white pine (Pinus strobus 'Nana') also seen a number of years ago at the National Arboretum in Washington D.C. has a fascinating form that in a better setting and without the gravel and ring of exposed edging could be the centerpiece of a wonderful garden composition.
My own dwarf eastern white pine is only eight years from the container nursery and already I think it is starting to show some interesting branching habits that will only become more interesting with age if I prune with care. It may be hard to imagine, but shortly before taking this photograph I opened up the interior of this plant and removed a great number of branches.

1 comment:

Ilona said...

Such lovely plantings, I hope they are faring well through this hard winter.