Strolling through my gardens with a friend recently, searching for appropriate greens for flower arrangements, I led her down a path toward one of my all time arranging favorites, cleyera, with its glossy bronze and green leaves. As I leaned in toward the shrub to point out some of its lovely properties, I realized my friend was not at my side. She had stopped in her tracks looking elsewhere. In fact she had her back to me, quite besotted by my Sciadopitys verticillate. “What IS this?” she asked. “That’s my Japanese Umbrella Pine,” I answered. I could see that she was as hopelessly smitten with Sciadopitys verticillate as I was when I first spotted this exotic youngster 10 years earlier. This 3-ft. tree was literally the first plant I put into the ground when we bought the property. It now stands over 8-ft. tall.
The umbrella pine is unlike any other tree, the sole-surviving species that was once widespread throughout the northern hemisphere. The leaves form on the stem’s end in a whorl of 20-30 dark green needles looking much like the ribs of an umbrella.. thus the name. The bark is quite attractively reddish-brown. Grown in zones 5-9, it seems to thrive in my Tidewater garden with high humidity and moisture. Other than water during dry spells and a bit of shade when the sun is highest, this lush tree is pest free and low-maintenance. If you come across an umbrella pine at your local nursery, beware, for you will be dazzled by its beauty and will have difficulty resisting the urge to take it home.
Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester