Hello fellow readers,
One of my favorite evergreen conifer specimens is the Umbrella Pine. It sits to the right of the garage giving it protection from winds as advised by experts when Sciadopitys verticillata is planted in zone 5. Michael Dir, the guru of woody plants, lists its hardiness as zone 5 to 7, though “not as prosperous in zone 7 as further North.” While we are officially listed as a zone 6, I consider most of us in a 5B. This winter’s dance in the single digits supports the theory.
My cherished plant, which cost three hundred bucks wholesale at five-foot-tall, now tippy tops to the second-floor gutter, which makes her about twenty feet. A very slow grower they say, growing about six inches a year, mine must be speedier than most as she’s grown fifteen feet since I dug her in sixteen years ago. She’s looser in form now, which I theorized having to do with being in afternoon shade. While acidic soil and full sun are best, at least six hours of direct sun daily, part sun (three to six hours) can work too. Late afternoon shade is beneficial in hotter zones. It turns out specimens often loosen in form as they grow older (sound familiar?). Branches become “more pendulous and spreading,” writes Michael Dirr. The neat thing is because of the looseness, the striking reddish-brown exfoliating bark of my prized plant is more visible now. And, it makes for a perfect tree to decorate with outdoor ornaments. The white lights will remain until March, but the Christmas balls will come off way before then. For now, I’m enjoying how the snow caps each shiny ornament.
When I mentioned I was writing about our Sciadopitys verticillata, Curt made an admiral attempt at reiterating the botanical name then concluded, “It sounds like a dinosaur.” And it is of sorts. More specifically, the Umbrella Pine, also known as Japanese Umbrella Pine because of its origin, is considered a living fossil. Fossils with the plant date back 230 million years when dinosaurs walked our world. The way the two-toned dark and light green flat waxy needles whorl around each stem in an umbrella-like fashion even looks prehistoric. Imagine a plant with no close relatives that dates back that long. Did I mention this living fossil is deer resistant? Apparently, there weren’t deer amongst the dinosaurs. Garden Dilemmas? Askmarystone@gmail.com
FYI: There are dwarf versions of Sciadopitys verticillata such as ‘Gruene Kugel, ‘a new selection from Germany, that Ann from Scotch Plains NJ found. It will grow four feet tall and three wide compared to the typical full-sized twenty-five to thirty feet tall and fifteen wide umbrella pines—a real cutie along the side of the rear patio we designed a few years back.