All the world admires the simplicity and elegance of a Japanese garden, a simplicity which belies the hard work and calculation required. And few modern gardeners have the time or skill to create an authentic Japanese garden, but what can be done with little trouble is incorporating certain elements that will give a Japanese touch. One tree that can immediately impart such a look is the Japanese red pine, or Pinus densiflora. This beautiful tree with its delicate, rich, green needles, arranged in pairs, can grow anywhere from 30 to 50 feet tall with a similar spread. That is quite a variability in height and is sometimes due to the environment in which it grows but also due to the fact that there is great variation in seedling grown trees. Quite simply, no two look the same, though all are beautiful. They start out sprawling and gangly but, with maturity, develop a broad, flat-topped silhouette over a sweeping trunk with massive lower, horizontal branches, all of which combine to make a stunningly picturesque tree. Whereas many pines work well in a grove, the Japanese red pine makes a beautiful specimen, where its irregular form can be best appreciated. Another asset is the peeling, rich orange bark on mature specimens, so handsome framed by the plume of dark green needles.
Japanese red pine has a moderate rate of growth and a fine texture. It is not bothered by pests or disease and only asks for well drained soil in full sun. It’s fully hardy throughout the UK and across most of the US, all except the extreme south. It does well in temperate Australia and New Zealand. If you want to bring some oriental character to your garden, this would be a great place to start. Also, there are some wonderful cultivars with varied foliage color and form.

As always, a tree this rare is not likely to be found in the large discount nurseries, but more likely in the select plant nurseries or from mail-order tree nurseries.


Japanese red pine

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