Why no southern pines?

rockman50(6b SEMASS)June 17, 2012

Many of us talk all the time about zone pushing with plants like southern magnolias, crape myrtles, cacti, palms, and many other southern plants. But nobody ever talks about southern pines like Loblolly, Longleaf, and shortleaf pines. I never see any available in local nurseries, which often sell other southern plants, and I never see them growing anywhere....although I think Roger Williams Park in Providence has a few??? Loblolly grows naturally into southern NJ and shortleaf into southern NY, so these would probably be hardy in south coastal New England. So does anybody have any experience with southern pines in southern New England? Are there any notable specimens in public spaces?

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bill_ri_z6b(Zone 6B)

I don't think you'll get much response here. I also like to push the zones a lot, but whenever I post about it, it doesn't get many replies. I think most folks on this forum prefer the tried and true garden plants, such as hostas, daylilies, peonies, viburnums, echinacea, etc. which is all fine, but it would be nice to see our community expanding its plant base. I myself grow several cacti, yuccas, jasmines, camellias, agapanthus and even a palm tree and more. I have most of the 'usual' stuff too, and I like it all. But it's nice to have something different.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2012 at 4:33PM
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I also like to push zone (and other) limits. I haven't considered southern pines because I haven't heard anything about them that makes me think they'd be more interesting than our northern pines - and that's probably only because I haven't seen or thought about pines much at all. Shortleaf and loblolly both sound interesting, maybe I'll rethink this.

I grow willow oak, which is endemic in the south but rarely seen here, as well as some of the plants Bill mentioned. I don't grow palms or cacti because I don't think they'd contribute to the overall sense of place I want in my gardens, but I'll try anything that "fits" - even if it's not supposed to be hardy here.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2012 at 4:49PM
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I grew up in central Alabama, surrounded by southern pines pushing out of the red clay soil, the only things that seemed to grow well, but I wouldn't really call them an eye-catching tree. I got so tired of them that to this day I see few evergreens I really like.

I'll have to look up those you listed and see if I can change my opinion.

One thing they were good for--plenty of pine straw mulch to be had. i couldn't believe it the first time I saw people charging MONEY for pine straw mulch. I thought it was a joke. But, alas, if you don't have the pines coming out your ears I guess you do have to pay.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2012 at 9:03AM
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tree_oracle(z6b MA)

Having grown up in the South, I feel that the pines there look roughly like the Eastern White pines so prevalent here. I would try growing a southern magnolia here before I would a pine. I think the evergreen envy would be more common in the South. They cannot for instance grow blue spruces in most places there.

If you want to push the envelope with an evergreen that's truly different then try a monkey puzzle tree which is common in England. Nothing like a tree full of razors to get the neighbors talking.

I think the South has more shrubs and small trees that are marginally hardy here that would be of more interest. Crape myrtles, camellias, gardenias, sweet olive, and others would be a delight here with their flowers and fragrance. Some would of course have to be grown in pots that are protected in some way in the winter.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2012 at 1:28PM
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bill_ri_z6b(Zone 6B)

Tree Oracle,
Do you really think Araucaria would survive here? I saw them at Kew in London and they are certainly different and can be a bit tricky to handle. Even the cones are sharp. I've also seen large ones in the Pacific Northwest even into British Columbia, but the climate is milder there in winter than it is here. I think much of that area is a zone 8.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2012 at 2:59PM
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I believe at least one person on this forum grows Araucaria araucana, aka monkey puzzle tree. She's on the Vineyard, so about as close to the Pacific northwest climate as possible for New England.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2012 at 9:26PM
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tree_oracle(z6b MA)

The Monkey Puzzle tree can definitely be grown here on the Cape. The last one that I saw was growing at Hyannis Golf Club. They are marginally hardy to zone 7. They dislike heat as much as the cold so it's hard to find just the right climate for them.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2012 at 9:37PM
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I think people mostly try pushing zones out of a desire to grow flowers and fruit that don't normally grow in New England, or a desire to grow evergreens that AREN'T conifers. I think warmer climates offer a wider range of flowers, fruits, and broad leafed evergreens. If you want a pine, there are plenty of options in northern climates. If someone is going to "zone push" with regards to conifers, they are more likely to plant cedars or those lemon scented conifers.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2014 at 5:05PM
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I tend to push limits as far as dryness since for the most part I don't have a hope as far as truly southern plants. So I brought home some Ponderosa cones from Colorado and will see if I can get some to grow from seed if ultimately planted on a sandy slope where our additional moisture might not bother it. I love the stout, long needles that give such a different texture than the pines around here.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2014 at 10:22PM
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