I am always drawn to conifers that display some kind of character. True, most of the tiny dwarf conifers that I love so much are very uniformly shaped little mounds, globes or pyramids, but trees with an unusual shape will capture my attention and inspire my imagination in a way the garden gems cannot. The art of bonsai involves many years of meticulous training and care to reproduce, in miniature, forms of trees found in nature; trees that have been struggling to survive on a cliff side, branches bent in a constant coastal wind or by year after year of snow load.
I love when I am introduced to a conifer cultivar that grows naturally in a contorted or windswept form even without the slightest breeze or snowfall. One such tree is Pinus parviflora ‘Fukuzumi.’ This form of the Japanese White Pine grows from a young age with the characteristic look of a pine beat down over millennia to grow at extreme angles giving the trunk nice movement and a welcome aesthetic appeal. The fine textured blue-green needles and prolific cone bearing habit add to the pleasure this tree gives in my garden. In fact, it is quite common to find three years of cones remaining on a tree for cone-heads like me to enjoy.
I can see this tree becoming very popular as more and more people discover its unique beauty. Hopefully, landscape designers begin to realize its usefulness as a low maintenance, rugged looking windswept tree for those special places in the garden.
Living somewhat near the Pacific Ocean, I love making the drive to the coast several times every year. It seems just about anywhere I go along the coast in the Pacific Northwest, I’ll find naturally sculpted pine. Sculpted by the strong coastal winds and the salt air, our native Shore Pines (Pinus contorta) surely have inspired many a garden tree artist and bonsai enthusiast.
I have a friend that wanted to recreate the coastal wind-blown look in his back garden so he planted several shore pines along with some other native coastal plants. He was terribly disappointed that the trees grew straighter and taller and much faster than those he had seen for years on the coast. By the time I met him, his pines were shading a large portion of his garden and he was ready to convert them to firewood.
I would have loved to tell him those many years ago about a fascinating cultivar of the Shore Pine named ‘Spaan’s Dwarf.’ This dwarf form grows naturally with curving, “wind-blown” branches and stunted growth as if it had been growing in the harsh coastal conditions. With just a little annual pruning, this small tree can become a garden tree of great distinction.
If container gardening is your passion, Pinus contorta ‘Spaan’s Dwarf’ is a prime choice there too. Imagine having your own miniature shore pine on your patio or deck to amaze your friends. This slow grower adapts very well to life in a container.
Its slow growth, small size and interesting branch structure inspire me to do a little pruning every spring. It’s more like having a living toy to play with than a high maintenance large garden tree that may require hours and hours of work to keep it looking good.
Thanks again to my good friends at Iseli Nursery for the photo.