Louis Raymond experiments in his own gardens like

a mad scientist, searching out plants that most people have

never seen before & figuring out how to make them perform.- The Boston Globe

…Louis Raymond ensures that trees can grow in Brooklyn…

or just about any other place where concrete consumes

the dirt and skyscrapers shield the sunshine.- USA Today

 
 

NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.

 
 
 
 

NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.

 
 
 
 

New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.

 
 
 
 

Plant Profiles

Gold-needled Japanese White Pine

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Here's a pine that's evergreen but also gets intense Fall foliage color.  Talk about multi-tasking.

 

At the tips of the branches, the growth that began in Spring retains its needles.  They're a gentle blue-green in warm weather, and are just starting to turn more gold now, as the Fall weather starts to deepen.

 

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Older needles, though, are getting ready to drop, and they celebrate their impending freedom by turning vivid tan, orange, and yellow.

 

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The boundary between the old and the new is sharp:  right up to the very base of the new little branches that mark the start of the current year's growth. 

 

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The top of the tree is where the longest new growth is, so—at least for this year—that's where the tree will stay evergreen. 

 

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If I let these first-year branches put out a new season of growth in 2012, though, then this year's needles will turn orange and tan in the Fall just like the shorter old growth farther down.

 

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But even though 'Ogon' is fairly compact, I need it to be a bit smaller still.  This coming Spring I'll prune off most of the lengthy green top-growth, long before it turns its mind to Fall color.

 

 

Here's how to grow this easy and colorful conifer:

 

Latin Name

Pinus parviflora 'Ogon'

Common Name

Gold-needled Japanese White pine

Family

Pinaceae, the Pine family.

What kind of plant is it?

Evergreen coniferous tree.

Hardiness

Zones 4 - 7

Habit

Upright, dense, and, in maturity, wide-spreading.

Rate of Growth

Slow to medium. 

Size in ten years

Six to eight feet tall and four to six feet wide.  Ultimately to ten feet tall and six to eight feet wide.

Texture

Soft and inviting, with stretches of densely-needled horizontal growth that are invitingly separated by intervening branches.

Grown for

its foliage: Dense soft needles are blue-green in warm weather but get more golden when it's cold.  This is a plant that helps you view an imminent Winter with more of a sense of welcome.

 

its cones: Although not remarkable in size or color, they are often abundant as well as long-lasting: to six or seven years.  Even young trees can bear cones in abundance.  The pale green "inflorescences" (pine trees don't get flowers per se, just male structures that release pollen and female structures that receive it and develop into cones) are pleasant but not exceptional.

 

its habit: Japanese white pines are typically graceful all on their own, with a trademark open branching and, with age (usually), a flat top and a planar multi-tiered profile.

 

its toughness:  Japanese white pines tolerate hot Summers as long as they get long and cold Winters.  Hardy to Zone 4, they can handle North American Winters anywhere but the most brutal high elevations of mountains or the extreme northern portions of the Midwest and New England.  On the other hand, this is not a pine for the Deep South, where Winters are mild and freezes infrequent.

Flowering season

Inflorescences develop in May here in New England.

Culture

Full sun in most soils as long as they're reasonably well-drained.  (My 'Ogon', though, is thriving in rich soil in absolutely flat ground, where Winter drainage can be quite slow.)

 

How to handle it

Japanese white pines can be quite self-reliant, growing all on their own with health and style.  'Ogon' is much smaller than the straight species, so even in smaller gardens could be left to grow free-range indefinitely. 

 

My plantings are so dense, though, that I need to control its spread even so.  New growth is in whirls of at the end of new sections of unbranched stems.  There's also an upright section of new stem at the center of each whirl, to carry on the branch's overall progress.  Cut that center section off if you need to control that outward spread; remove other individual branchlets to make the plant more open.  Cut off the upper half of branchlets (in other words, leaving plenty of growth that has fresh first-year needles below the cut) to encourage branching-out.  Getting out your folding saw or your loppers, reach into the center of the tree to remove entire branches to "ventilate" the look as well as to reduce overall spread. 

 

Lastly, if you're alert early in the season when the new growth is in the soft "candle" stage, you can snap or pinch off entire candles, or portions thereof, with your bare fingers.  This is perhaps the most subtle way to control growth, because it leaves almost no visible scar.

Downsides

Pine trees as a whole are vulnerable to more bugs than most conifers.  Check with the local office of your USDA to see if there are particular threats to particular pines where you garden.  That said, my Pinus parviflora has never had a lick of trouble. 

Variants

As is so typical for plants native to Japan, where gardening at the highest level of observation and sophistication has been ongoing for many centuries, naturally-arising variants have been all the more likely to have been observed, propagated, and preserved.  Pinus parviflora is right in that groove, with many variants from dense mounding dwarfs to full-size forms that are open and picturesque.  Some cultivars have unusually short needles or needles with a marked twist; others have needles with a notable blue or gold (or blue and gold) cast. 

 

Unless they are the dwarfs, free-range individuals have a characteristic open, irregular, and flat-topped sweep that seems to have been already trained by a Japanese bonsai master.  Individuals that actually are trained into bonsai, then, are at particular natural advantage; Pinus parviflora are prominent in any bonsai collection worthy of your visit. 

Availability

On-line and at nurseries.

Propagation

By grafting.  

Native habitat

Pinus parviflora is native to Japan, as is the cultivar 'Ogon'.  

 
 
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