PNW Landscape Plant Guide

brought to you by the plant geeks at Calendula Farm

Japanese Black Pine (Pinus thunbergii)

Who wants a living sculpture? This pine, native to southern Japan and surrounding areas, is a classic bonsai candidate and in the landscape it becomes a magnificent and eye-catching living art feature.

At a young age it grows skyward, but then in its teenage years it starts exploring every other direction but up. Major branches might head out horizontally then reverse in a switchback and then pick a new direction for a couple of years. Older specimens that have been doing this for a hundred years or more are truly awesome. Height can be 15 to 55 feet tall or wide. It is easily trainable with simple pruning each year. The size can be controlled by pruning off the new spring growth, called ‘candles’ at the branch tips.

Our trees are seed grown from a very old tree on a property that overlooks Commencement Bay in Tacoma. The main trunk is about 3.5 feet diameter and some of the major branches are at least 2 feet diameter. It looks like Medusa having a bad hair day – but in a good way. Another specimen in Tacoma, now gone, had a single trunk close to 3 feet diameter grew up 3-4 feet, then bent over and snaked along the ground like a giant shaggy serpent. The owner referred to it as the Dragon Tree.

Cool stuff. Easy to grow.