Swiss Stone Pine

Garden Clippings for June 24, 2017

Gotta love my Swiss Stone Pine.

When I planted the Swiss Stone Pine (Pinus Cembra) it resembled a Charlie Brown Christmas tree.  Its size was a little more than 3 feet and the date was September 1995.  I felt pity on the poor specimen, so I rescued it and gave it a permanent home in our backyard.

A few years later my Swiss Stone Pine began to make something out of itself and slowly grew to be a fine looking conifer.  Its colour became rich green, its soft needles became dense, and its shape became upright and graceful.  By the time my beloved Pine reached its tenth anniversary and about 6 feet of height, it achieved favorite status.

Evil befell my favorite Pine on or near its 20’th anniversary.  The boys had a few friends over, hot dogs and burnt marshmallows were cooking up in the fire pit, and we pulled out a variety pack of fireworks to help celebrate Canada Day.

The first few fireworks shot into the heavens without a hitch. The third was a dud and meandered sideways into the safety of my Swiss Stone Pine.  The next few lit the night sky beautifully.

It was Jarod who spotted it first:  “Hey, there’s a fire in your favorite tree, Dad!”  I leapt to the tap, pulled out the garden hose, and by the time the water reached the tree, the centre was engulfed in flames.  I figured it was a goner.

Two years later, the tree has recovered amazingly, so much so that perhaps its brush with death has given it a new lease on life.  Only the central leader has succumbed to the fire, giving it a rounded shape, but a new leader is already beginning to form.  By now the tree is about 12 feet high and looks better than ever.

Swiss Stone Pine is a little known conifer with graceful form, compact size and slow growth rate.  Mine, planted 20 years ago is now about 12 feet high and 5 or 6 feet wide.  Needles are soft, and are clustered in groups of 5.  This Pine thrives in poor soil and under neglect.  Mine enjoys a sunny location at the edge of the septic bed.

Swiss Stone Pine’s compact size makes it an ideal choice for small backyards where space is at a premium.  Plant it to hide an unsightly view or to give privacy from neighbour’s views into your backyard.  Planting a Swiss Stone Pine requires faith and patience, because they grow slowly and are not showy when young.

For a faster growing Pine, consider the more popular Vanderwolf Pine, with soft blue- green foliage.  Stow’s Pillar Pine is similar but with very narrow upright form.