Friday, February 10, 2012

Cultivars of Pinus parviflora

Pines are dead, absolutely dead," or so I was told recently. The claimant was a down-and-out nurseryman who wasn't able to sell his grafted pine specimens. In the past they sold "pretty good," but not anymore. That's not my experience, but I mumbled a condolence. It didn't occur to him that maybe his selection and quality were the issue. (He won't read this because he plans to end his sojourn on this earth without messing with the internet).

Always one of my favorite species is Pinus parviflora, or rather, the numerous cultivars of it. Parviflora comes from the mountains of Japan's lower islands, while var. pentaphylla hails from the northern portion. Most of the cultivars are hardy to USDA zone 5, or at least that's what I claim (as in copying others), but we have a lot of zone 4 repeat customers as well. The species name is not much fun: parviflora or "small flower" refers to the small seed cones. But what is fun, is to consider some of the hundreds of cultivars.

Pinus parviflora 'Aoi'

Pinus parviflora 'Blue Giant'

Both cultivars 'Aoi' and 'Blue Giant' have been featured before, in the "Blue Forest" blog of December 28, 2011. Suffice to say, that if you could only grow two selection, these would be wonderful choices. 'Aoi' is dwarf and dense, while 'Blue Giant' is more upright and open, but both were selected for their blue foliage. As you can see from the photos, silvery needle undersides add luster, especially on 'Blue Giant', because the long needles often twist.

 Pinus parviflora 'Cleary'

Most parviflora cultivars are slow-growing and never attain a huge size. But I'll identify some I call "medium-compact," those which are not truly dwarf, and also not the full-size trees. There are many, maybe hundreds. The clear favorite at Buchholz Nursery is 'Cleary', one of our best-selling cultivars of any conifer. Some call it the most blue; however, as with the blue spruces, often the most "blue" can mean the most sparkling or glittery (due to the needles' undersides). For example, 'Aoi' is actually more true blue than 'Cleary'. That's perhaps nit-picking, but anyway, 'Cleary' is impressive. It will form a dense pyramid, approximately 6' tall by 4' wide in 10 years, and should be grown in full sun for best color. In addition to being an excellent cultivar, probably all of our customers agree that a specimen from Buchholz Nursery is better grown than from anyone else…if I do say so. The reason for this is simple: he's called Phil Turrell, our director of operations and head grower. Odd though, that while he is so great at growing plants, he is thoroughly bald, so maybe I shouldn't call him a "head grower."

Pinus parviflora 'Gimborn's Pyramid'

Also in the mid-size range is Pinus parviflora 'Gimborn's Pyramid'. For me, it will grow to only 5' tall by 3' wide in 10 years. Really, 'Gimborn's Pyramid' isn't much different from 'Gimborn's Ideal'. Both are just a couple of seedlings that display good silver-blue foliage. The Gimborn, which I visited about twelve years ago, is a worthy plant collection, but I got the feeling that it was in decline, and that on most days there would be few, if any, visitors. I did see my first-ever Tsuga x jeffreyi, the original Tsuga mertensiana 'Blue Star' and a number of other old-timers.

Pinus parviflora 'Shion'

Pinus parviflora 'Shion' is another great selection in the mid-size range. It starts out as a bush more broad than tall, but eventually will develop a pyramidal form. As with the others, it features silvery-blue needles, and can often be adorned with cones.

Pinus parviflora 'Regenhold'

Pinus parviflora 'Miyoi'

Pinus parviflora 'Blue Lou'

One of the most dwarf is 'Regenhold'. I don't know the origin of this selection, but it has the look of a witch's broom. The blue-green needles are very tiny, and the plant is so congested that one should shake it annually to keep the dead needles from accumulating in the center. 'Miyoi' is another cute dwarf, growing more broad than tall, with glossy blue-green needles. 'Blue Lou' is a sweetiepie, with short needles greenish in spring before turning powder-blue by summer. It is excellent in a rock garden or a container, and is not subject to inexplicable die-off like some of the dwarf parvifloras, such as 'Hagoromo', which we have discontinued. We also gave up on 'Adcock's Dwarf' as the plant would develop a needle crud every spring, just about the time we were ready to ship.

Pinus parviflora 'Tanima no yuki'

Pinus parviflora 'Himeko janome'
Pinus parviflora 'Shiro janome'

Pinus parviflora 'Ogon janome'

I can't discuss the parvifloras without describing a few of the variegated cultivars. 'Tanima no yuki' also made its appearance in the 'Blue Forest" blog, but I'll post the photos again because they look so nice. 'Himeko janome' and 'Ogon janome' are similar, both with the "dragon's eye" banding pattern. Some say 'Himeko janome' is the more colorful, but I don't notice any difference. 'Shiro janome' has a more white variegation than the gold of the previous two, and its needles are much more short and thin. It is not a strong grower, but looks good in a container with afternoon shade.

Pinus parviflora 'Fukai'

A far stronger cultivar, 'Fukai', is clearly variegated and does tolerate full sun, in fact requires a lot of sun to have its color. 'Fukai' made its way into Europe in the 1970's or before, and was distributed by the Horstmann Nursery of Schneverdingen, Germany. Presumably it originated in Japan.


Pinus parviflora 'Goldilocks'


Pinus parviflora 'Dr. Landis'

A well-grown specimen of 'Goldilocks' in the garden, which isn't so easy to achieve, can help you sell a lot in containers. But frequently they look terrible in a container, so I don't offer them to the garden centers. The companies that do, generally have lop-sided plants with sick cream-white variegation. And they cost a fortune. 'Goldilocks' (sometimes spelled "Goldylocks") is worth having, but it needs to be in the ground for the gold to appear, or at least that's my experience. Many ask me if it is the same as 'Dr. Landis'. I don't know, but they do look alike, as you can see.

We have so many parvifloras in our gardens that I frequently have to look at their labels to know which is which, as many are similar. I'll blog off now without mentioning many choice ones.

…I just got the idea, since I have a lot of room at our growing farm, to plant a long row with one of every cultivar, with plenty of space so they can stay there until the end of (my) time.

Flora Farm before planting

Next week I promise you a fun blog--we'll visit that field-growing farm I mentioned, called Flora Farm.

1 comment:

  1. What rootstock do you use for pinus parviflora?
    Is it the same for all the cultivars?
    Can incompatibility between rootstock and scion cause the die-off?