Garden Dilemmas, Delights & Discoveries, Ask Mary Stone, New Jersey Garden blog

The Gift of a Giant Umbrella Pine

a large truck with a spaded holding the giant umbrella pine as a mother and young boy watch.

Hello, lovers of all things green. Our public gardens are a sure way to get a garden and nature “fix” with no cost of admission. Bruce Crawford, Morris County Park Commission’s Manager of Horticulture, invited me to tour the Frelinghuysen Arboretum in Morristown, NJ. The tour came with an extraordinary surprise—the arrival of the gift of a giant Umbrella Pine, with insights from those involved, including a two-year-old boy.

a giant umbrella pine in a tree spade being put in the garden

This Giant Sciadopitys verticillata was donated by Lorenz Fasano of Mendham, NJ.

Kristin Prommel, Superintendent of Horticulture at Frelinghuysen Arboretum, explained Lorenz Fasano of Mendham, NJ, who grows Umbrella Pines, donated the 28-foot tree.

The Friends of Frelinghuysen Arboretum funded the transport. The tree arrived in a truck with an enormous tree spade encasing the root ball. Maybe that’s why Jack, less than two years old, was enthralled with the tree. He had a front-row seat with his Mom steering his stroller, following the truck from the garden entrance through the Long Meadow to its new home in the Conifer Garden.

Moving the Giant Umbrella Pine 
a grey haired man with a shovel planting a giant umbrella pine

Mark Adelle, with East Coast Landscape Contractors, specializes in transplanting large trees.

I enjoyed a front-row spot, too, and had the privilege of interviewing those involved, including the moving man. Mark Adelle, with East Coast Landscape Contractors, specializes in transplanting large trees. They started tying up the limbs and digging the tree at the nursery that donated it at 7 AM; it was in the ground by noon. Watching Mark and his crew was like watching a perfectly choreographed dance, ensuring the giant would thrive in its new home.

It’s a beautiful tree—its botanical name, Sciadopitys verticillata, sounds like a dinosaur. And it is! It’s known as the Japanese Umbrella Pine because of its origin—fossils of the plant date back 230 million years from when dinosaurs walked our world.

While all the excitement was going on, Jack patiently watched. His Mom said he loves to be outdoors and is curious about plants and animals. Perhaps he’ll be the next horticulturist to run the Arboretum.

a bluesish -needled conifer with pink candles of new growth

This little cutie (Prostrata Nana Nordman Fir) has a skirt.

Treasures in Frelinghuysen Arboretum’s Conifer Garden 

Mark shared that the owner of the collection of Umbrella Pines he transplanted eight years ago was friends with Sydney Waxman, a botanist and horticulturist who was a Professor of Ornamental Horticulture at the University of Connecticut and developed several Sciadopitys varieties. I had never realized the depth of Umbrella Pine cultivars, some of which you can see at the Frelinghyeon Arboretum.

Krista introduced us to the Variegated Japanese Umbrella Pine (Sciadopitys verticillata ‘Variegata’), but only one branch on their specimen held the yellow variegation. “I don’t think this is a stable cultivar, but it is unique.”

a small tree in a cage with sparse yellow needles.

‘Yellow Dream’ Umbrella Pine

There’s ‘Yellow Dream’ whose color and sparse needles made it look sickly. Though it’s best to look at things without judgment, we can have preferences for plants as we can for fashions. Speaking of, my favorite conifer in the collection was wearing a skirt.

Prostrata Nana Nordman Fir (Abies nordmanniana ‘Prostrata’) is an evergreen groundcover conifer shrub. It’s the cutest thing with pink new growth at the ends of each stem, called candles, and a cacti-like appearance. Their specimen is sporting a charming skirt, which may be an anomaly for the variety.

There’s a striking Needle Juniper poised where you turn the curve to enter the garden. It greets you like a giant Cousin Itt from the old Addams Family, wearing glasses and a hat, whose hair went to the floor.

a large weeping evergreen that likes like a hairy creature at Frelinghuysen Arboretum

A Juniperus rigida greets you when entering the Conifer Garden like a giant Cousin Itt from the old Addams Family.

Juniperus rigida is also known as Temple Juniper because it originates in Japan and is often planted on sacred grounds. I adore its graceful weeping branches and have one planted along the rear foundation overlooking the stone patio. Looking at their monster, about thirty feet at forty years old, mine will eventually have to be moved.

Kristen, Lori, and Bruce standing behind a sedum garden at Frelinghuysen Arboretum

Kristen Prommel, Lori Jenssen, and Bruce Crawford

The history of Frelinghuysen Arboretum

We wrapped up the conifer tour with the history of the Arboretum.

“It was the home of the Frelinghuysen family, an influential family in New Jersey politics and industry. Built in the 1800s, it was their summer home. In the 50s, it was bequeathed to the park commission by Matilda Frelinghuysen, the last daughter who lived here,” Kristen said.

Speaking of history, it was a delight that Lori Jenssen, Executive Director of the NJ Nursery and Landscape Association (NJNLA), joined the tour and shared tidbits about the over 100-year-old association.

About the NJ Nursery and Landscape Association

“Our members are everybody in the green industry.” Garden centers, landscapers, greenhouse operators, growers, designers, and community gardens. “We support them by providing education, advocacy, and networking.”

a large white Victorian home and main house at the Frelinghuysen Arboretum

The summer home of the Frelinghuysen family.

The NJNLA also helps consumers by providing information and the benefits of hiring a pro. “We like to say, do it right the first time; hire a pro,” Lori said.

Bruce Crawford added that the NJNLA supports “public gardens and members of educational horticulture. I’ve always enjoyed education and sharing. Because I think a lot of people walk around and look at plants and don’t appreciate how they operate, how old they are, or how they grew or developed with pollinators. Or maybe there weren’t pollinators around when they started, like that Umbrella Pine we watched go in the ground.”

And what a treat it was. No matter our age, if we encounter unexpected things, take time to watch and marvel, as young Jack did, because wonder is the beginning of wisdom.

Garden Dilemmas? and for favorite Podcast Apps.

There’s more to the story in the Garden Dilemmas Podcast, including soundbites from the tour you’ll enjoy.

Related Stories & Helpful Links:

Gentle Strength of Umbrella Pine is in Episode 87 of the Podcast.

More about Umbrella Pine Varieties

Enjoy a previous tour with Bruce Crawford:  Wonders of Willowwood Arboretum, featured in  Episode 161 of the Podcast. 

Here are links to the Frelinghuysen Arboretum and the New Jersey Nursery & Landscape Association: Check out the Consumer button on the top bar.

Mary Stone, owner of Stone Associates Landscape Design & Consulting. As a Landscape Designer, I am grateful for the joy of helping others beautify their surroundings which often leads to sharing encouragement and life experiences. These relationships inspired my weekly column published in THE PRESS, 'Garden Dilemmas? Ask Mary', began in 2012. I dream of growing the evolving community of readers into an interactive forum to share encouragement and support in Garden and Personal Recoveries - seeking nature’s inspirations, stimulating growth, weeding undesirables, embracing the unexpected. Thank you for visiting! Mary

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