It happened again.
One of my neighbors spotted me pulling some of the fallen needles trapped among the branches of my Pinus strobus ‘Macopin’ and ran over to my garden.
“Ed – are your pines dying too?” he shouted with a look of horror on his face. “My pines are dying Ed, they’re all sick and dying!”
“Hold on there, buckaroo,” I told him, “I think you’re getting all worked up over nothing.”
“No, yours are doing it too. Look – I can see needle puddles all over your garden! They’ve got some kind of virus or something, don’t they! And don’t try to tell me that they are those weird deciduous conifers you talk about.”
It was a challenge, but I was able to calm my friend down after a few minutes.
I explained to him that all conifers drop their foliage. The difference is that some woody plants drop their foliage after just one season of growth (deciduous trees and shrubs) and others may retain their foliage for two or three years or even up to twenty (evergreens). This annual needle drop is probably most evident on pines because they tend to have very long needles making it much more noticable when they drop.
Some open growing pines will drop their older needles, and having a less crowded branch work will leave a very noticable puddle of needles at their base. Others, like the P.s. ‘Macopin’ I was cleaning out when my neighbor arrived, have a more compact form and crowded branching pattern causing the old needles to collect in clumps here and there around the tree. A good winter wind can whisk those needles away, but sometimes I prefer to reach in with my hands or a small leaf rake to pull the needles out. Then I just add them to the compost pile.
I feel confident that this particular neighbor – though somewhat timid about investing in a collection of conifers for his garden – the more he learns, the more he will begin to relax and enjoy the four seasons of color and texture that conifers provide in the garden.