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Pinus - Growing Guide
There are over 120 species of pines but Burncoose grows only a few. Most species we offer are excellent windbreaks especially in maritime conditions in coastal areas. Others are perhaps grown more for their architectural or ornamental merits in the overall landscape.
Although it grows in the wild in only one coastal area of California where it is endangered, mention must first be made of the greatest founding asset of all Cornish woodland gardens created (mainly) in the last 120 years. None of these gardens would have been able to grow such a huge range of new Asiatic species from China without an outer windbreak to break up and dissipate strong westerly gales. This is, of course, Pinus radiata, known locally as Insignis pine, which readily grows to 100ft in the teeth of the wind without bending, breaking or any scorching that it cannot grow through in a season. These pines seem to live here for only 100 to 120 years before they overproduce so many huge fir cones that the branches split and the trees gradually disintegrate. Replacements were planted at Caerhays and Burncoose over 20 years ago to start new lines of protection. The problem with young Pinus insignis is keeping them upright in the early years. They are so top heavy that they readily fall over despite huge stakes. On Tresco they let them lie and grow up into trees from a reclining position as the wind speeds on the Isles of Scilly make staking a waste of time.
Turning now to the other species of pine which we offer:
P. contorta, the Beach pine from N. America, is nowhere near as vigorous as P. radiata but it eventually grows up to 60-80ft and is also a good windbreak. It needs to be planted as a belt rather than a row to do the job properly.
P. mugo, the dwarf mountain pine, grows to only around 10ft with a greater spread. It too is a good, but much lower growing, windbreak hedge which we have sometimes used interspersed with Insignis pine.
P. mugo ‘Ophir’ is a dwarf growing ornamental or feature plant in a rockery. It has very attractive golden yellow foliage in winter.
P. nigra, Austrian pine, is a 100ft tall domed tree from SE Europe and also has merit as wind protection for maritime gardens. It too can be inter-planted with P. radiata as it tends to keep its lower branches in maturity which helps keep out under-drafts. P. radiata becomes a bare trunk below its mature crown.
P. patula is a much more tender ornamental pine with shiny pendant needles. It will not grow in colder areas especially when young but achieves a height of 80ft or so here with a small eventual crown. The photographs below show how attractive it can look.
P. pinaster, Maritime pine, grows to around 70ft and is a domed conical tree which you see frequently in Italian coastal areas.
P. strobus, the Weymouth pine, is actually from N. America. It is a very tall growing and perfectly hardy tree but its upswept branches when young means that it has, perhaps, more ornamental value than simply as a windbreak. It certainly looks attractive in a pot with its olive-brown new shoots.
P. sylvestris, the Scots pine, is probably the best windbreak pine for colder parts of the country and away from the sea. It is so commonly used on farms to create windbreaks for livestock on remote hillsides that it should need no introduction.
P. wallichiana, the Bhutan pine, is again in the ornamental category of pines. It is a large conical tree with attractive pendant grey-green to blue needles (leaves).