The austere beauty of a Japanese garden is admired around the world, a simplicity which belies the hard work, time and meticulous planning required. And few gardeners would have the time to undertake the challenges of creating an authentic Japanese garden. However, there are some relatively easy steps that can be taken that would lend some of the more attractive aspects of a Japanese garden to your own urban plot. One tree alone can immediately impart such a look and that is the Japanese red pine, or Pinus densiflora, a beautiful tree of variable size and form that has numerous cultivars. And of these cultivars there is one that is a particular standout, and this is Dragon's eye pine, or Pinus densiflora ‘Oculus Draconis’. This is a unique tree that possesses the quiet sophistication of a Japanese garden in a tough as nails, low maintenance, evergreen conifer. Dragon's eye pine has stiff needles with alternating bands of yellow and green. When viewed from above, the yellow and green pattern gives a 'Dragon's Eye' effect which is truly striking. This slow-growing pine opens with age, and becomes more asymmetrical in outline with the handsome foliage carried in layers at the ends of contorted branches. But the beautiful banding draws attention at any age, or season, and positively brightens the winter's landscape. And as a Dragon's eye pine ages, it becomes increasingly picturesque while also developing beautiful orange and silver flaking bark. Dragon's eye pine deserves a prominent site and yet, being evergreen, it could also serve the practical role of screen or windbreak. And the cones and tree provide food and habitat for the wild-life friendly garden. Ultimate height may be as much as 60 feet, but in garden cultivation, 40 feet is more likely, with a similar spread over many years.

Dragon’s eye pine requires a place in full sun with moist, well-drained, slightly acid soil. Although most pines are tolerant of poor soils, they grow more quickly and beautifully on good garden soil. Dragon's eye pine is well adapted to the UK and the upper half of the US, southern Canada and does well in the cooler bits of Australia and New Zealand.

As usual, this special tree will not be found in the popular landscape nurseries but more likely in a specialty, mail-order, plant nursery.


Dragon’s eye pine

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