While visiting with Celeste and her family a week or two ago, Celeste asked me what she could do to save this "Christmas Tree". I tell you I can make anything even a visit to a friend a subject for a post in this blog! So here is the story. As soon as I saw the tree I told her it wasn't worth saving. It is a White Pine, botanically known as Pinus strobus. White pines are really cool pines and it seems they are an 'in' trend amongst landscapers, but I am not sure why and if anyone can enlighten me, please do. I think landscapers may like these pines because they grow fast and the needles are soft. I really don't know but I do not recommend planting these pines in this area.
I learned about these trees in NSCC this past term. Nancy, the instructor, was good enough to walk our class around the campus and show us the various identifying characteristics that identify the tree. White pines are easily identified because their branching pattern looks like a wagon wheel. That is, the branches around the tree are in a spiral at the same heighth, so as to resemble a wagon wheel. There will be branches all up and down the tree but they will all look like wagon spokes attached to teh trunk, which is the center of the wheel. Other pines do not normally branch in this manner.
According to Michael Dirr's Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, white pines are "one of the fastest growing landscape pines; becoming 50' to 75' tall in 25 to 40 years." (Dirr, pg 742) Dirr says they grow well in the Piedmont area of Georgia but inexpicably they die out. He thinks maybe because of heat and drought stress. The white pines are subject to two very serious pests; the White Pine blister rust and the White Pine weevil. (Dirr)
In this area we do suffer from drought and high heat and humidity. These two factors alone will stress any plant and anyone! Put them together and they spell disease and pests for the White Pine, ultimately the pine will die. Celeste has a hedgerow of white pines at the back of her property and along one side. It is on the side of her property where this white pine and one other are located. The area is very moist as it is a low lying area. Another problem for the White Pine as White Pines need a well drained area. I am not sure why the tree is leaning, maybe wind damage combined with the soft and soggy area caused it to lean, but the cause is not really important. The tree is in the wrong place and is not worth saving because of the trouble of maintaining its health for the long term.
There are ways you can try to straighten out a leaning tree when it is young. This tree is young but too old to dig and re-plant and straightening it is probably not worth the effort. I think it will be short lived no matter what Dan and Celeste do to try to save it. Along the back of the property some of the White Pines have already succumbed to the stresses of this past year. In fact, driving around town you can find many dead White Pines. Most are planted as hedgerows along the back of someone's nice yard. They are all planted about 20 feet apart. These pines can easily spread to 20'-40' feet (Dirr), so planting them a mere 20' feet on center will not allow for the growth of the tree.
My suggestion to Celeste and Dan is to purchase a good quality Weeping Willow. Normally I would not ever recommend this tree but the area where it will go is a perfect area for a weeping willow. The area gets full sun and is moist. It is an area quite a distance away from any structures and a weeping willow in this area will bring great joy to not only Dan and Celeste, but I think the adjacent neighbors as well. Additionally, there are no septic lines or water lines in the area. Willows are notoriously attracted to moist lines of septic systems and can quickly cause havoc when their roots grow into the moistness. The White Pine can even stay in place while the Weeping Willow is growing in. An alternative to the Weeping Willow would be a River Birch. River Birches like the same kind of growing conditions as a Weeping Willow, but have a little different form and habit. It is really a personal choice but either way they will be better off replacing the White Pine with something else.
in the garden...