More "Exotics"



Here are a few more evergreens that have been imported and that are "exotic" in the sense they are unusual and rarely used. For the most part, these plants are hardy and there is no good reason to shy away from them.

Japanese Umbrella Pine (Sciadopitys verticilata) is an extremely interesting evergreen. Not a true pine, but so named due to its needles' habit of rotating evenly around a branch, it is native to Hondo, according to Michael Dirr. Umbrella Pine has dark green, glossy 2-5" long, thick needles. It can grow to 30', but at 6" a year or less, is quite slow. It does best in Zones 5-7 and needs a spot sheltered from the wind. Heavy wet snow can break branches and it is best informally trimmed to keep it a narrow pyramid shape. Pruning for one central leader is also helpful. It lends itself well to trimming, unlike many true pines. In this respect, it can be a fine foundation plant if given at least 6' of clearance.

Japanese White Pine (Pinus parviflora) is a unique accent specimen, growing to 30' tall at a slower rate than Umbrella Pine. Its branches are exposed as the needle clusters bunch in groups. Needle clusters look like artists' brushes, being fine, short, and dense. Needle color can be green to bluish. This pine can be as wide as tall as it matures, but is easy to control in a small garden. Japanese White Pine does best in full sun and decent loam, but is soil tolerant. The dwarf bluish variety (P. glauca nana) has thicker, softer needles covering the stem and looks almost fir-like when young.

Weeping White Pine (Pinus strobus "Pendula") is a weeping form of native White Pine. It needs the same full sun and is soil tolerant. The weeping variety grows to about 15' tall, but slowly gets wider. Its graceful, cascading branches make it an interesting focal piece and it can even provide a low, full screen. During the Ice Storm the weeping varieties had little or no damage, and, in 19 years, pine weevil has not been evident.

Hinoki Falsecypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa) can often be used as a substitute for Arborvitae. The dark green fan-shaped foliage with whitish undersides often grows in spiral fashion around the main stem. This plant can be sheared, but looks far better when trimmed informally. Originally from Japan, it does well when kept out of strong wind and dry soils. If planted near a foundation, it should be about 6' away, or a slow-growing cultivar used, such as "Compacta" or "Nana". In parts of Maine where winter temperatures commonly reach -20 degrees, Hinoki Falsecypress can be damaged or killed.

Japanese Falsecypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera) generally has thin, feathery needles, but varies more than Hinoki Falsecypress in the various cultivars. This plant is slightly more cold tolerant, although sweeping winds and dry soils are not suitable. Cham. p. "Boulevard" is a narrow upright evergreen form with soft-looking silvery-blue foliage. When the interior browns, as is common in some locations, it can be pruned as a "pompom" specimen. In sheltered spots with moist soil, Boulevard Falsecypress is a beautiful, full ornamental shrub. Threadleaf Falsecypress (Chamaecpyaris pisifera "Filifera") is a droopy-needled, feathery form that can get broad before becoming more upright. There are dwarf varieties suitable for foundation planting, but Green or Gold Threadleaf Falsecypress deserves a focal spot with space.

Boxwood (Buxus) is a great foundation plant or hedge shrub. Boxwood grows to between 2'-5' tall and wide at a very slow rate. They have small, glossy, cupped leaves on a very dense plant. Sheltered spots in sun to moderate shade are best; and, because of its shallow root system, rich, moist soil with a layer of mulch is required. In the past, this species seemed prone to winterkill, but newer cultivars appear to do much better. For those who want a low-maintenance shrub, this is a must.

If you wish to make your yard more interesting than the typical postage stamp landscape design try some of these less-used plants.


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Poland Spring, Maine
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