March Plant of the Month: Pinus bungeana – Lacebark Pine Evergreens are often overused in the home landscape.
Many residential landscapes are crammed with a jarring collage of broadleaf and needle specimens, often displayed (seemingly) with little thought about creating any visually appealing cohesive composition, or utilizing them effectively for a practical concern, such as a windbreak screen.
All too often their unique forms and shapes are disfigured – due to improper pruning or placing them too close to adjacent plantings.
The end result: a bland, stiff landscape, even in our leafless winter landscape here in the Northeast.
As March begins, signifying the end of Winter, and the onset of Spring (signifying the frenetic blooming period to come), having any specimens with prominent visual appeal is a thrill and a requirement for the serious gardener.
Sure, the witch hazels are in bloom – always a treat – and soon Forsythia, Abeliophyllum distichum, Mahonia aquifolium, Pieris and other early flowering shrubs will begin blooming.
But even these hardy bloomers look better when placed in close proximity to an evergreen such as Pinus bungeana.
Commonly called Lacebark Pine, this three needle pine is a superb specimen for the late winter landscape!
The exfoliating bark ranges in color from whitish/gray to green/brown and stands out prominently against the stiff green needles, particularly with a snowy backdrop.
But its visual appeal is hardly limited to the winter season. The dense green foliage typically cascades along low branches that often nearly touch the ground, creating a nice full backdrop for more decorative plantings placed in the foreground.
Or when utilizing the plant as a stand-alone specimen, choose a multi-stem plant and remove or thin lower branches to reveal the exfoliating bark. In the summer season – once established -- this tree holds up well to hot, dry conditions.
Like many pines it prefers acid soil conditions but in my experience performs well in disturbed and alkaline soils often found in touch urban conditions. It is not the most common pine in the nursery trade but don’t let that keep you from including this tree in your landscape.
Growth is quite slow. It typically matures at a height of 30’ or more, with a spread of 20-30,’ often with variable form. Another native of China, it’s an excellent choice as a specimen tree for small properties, or as an accent plant, or a screen. Hardy Zones 4-8