SEATTLE, Wash — Gardening expert Ciscoe Morris recently returned from a garden tour to Japan, where he found inspiration in the beautifully curated landscape.
Having just returned from leading a wonderful garden tour to Japan, I was struck by the austere beauty of the Japanese gardens and the perfectly pruned pines in them. This is a nice time to go to Japan, because there is spectacular fall color from cherries and Japanese maples, that contrast beautifully with the pines that form the background for most of the gardens.
Most of the pines in Japanese gardens are Japanese black and Japanese red pines. There is an unusual American native pine however, that I absolutely love and recommend for any garden with good sunshine and well drained soil. The pine I'm referring to is called a 'Chief Joseph Pine (Pinus contorta var. latifolia 'Chief Joseph'). Discovered in the Wallowa Mountains of northeastern Oregon, the tree was the only one of it's kind ever found. The cultivar name, 'Chief Joseph', is for Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekt, known as Chief Joseph (1840-1904), a leader of the Wal-lam-wat-kain (Wallowa) band of Nez Perce, a Native American tribe indigenous to the Wallowa Valley in northeastern Oregon.
What makes this slow growing (4 inches a year) tree so remarkable is that it turns from its summer color of typical pine green to electrifying golden yellow in winter. You practically need to wear sunglasses to look at it. The warm golden glow really cheers up the winter garden.
No one knows for sure how tall this tree can grow, but it's not expected to exceed 6 feet tall. For the best color effect plant in full sun and be sure to remove any dead, brown needles from the branches which would detract from the trees appearance. The soil should be well-drained and water regularly during the dry season for the first two years until it is established, after that water occasionally.
Finally, some Chief Joseph pines have been found to burn in full-sun. To prevent that problem make sure that the tree you buy is grafted on Pinus contorta var. latifolia. I have one at my house and it has never burned in the 5 or 6 years I've had it in my garden.
Sayonara for now!