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Pining for Dooyoo
Member Name: Aspen
Date: 15/04/01, updated on 15/04/01 (127 review reads)
Advantages: Shapes and sizes to suit all gardens.
Disadvantages: But the native Pine will outgrow all but the largest garden.
I am reliably informed that we are in the midst of Spring, and it is rumoured that summer may be along sometime. We who earn our crust in the world of horticulture, are up to our eyes at this time of year. Which is why I’ve not been around much lately, and my contributions may be a bit thin on the ground for a while.
It is a late season. In my part of the world, trees are only just beginning to come into leaf.
It was this observation which prompted me to think of trees.
Or more specifically, pine.
Or even more specifically, Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris).
I do understand, really, if non-tree-lovers are bored already. All I ask of you is a sympathy vote. If you scroll to the bottom now, you will find the sympathy-vote rating on the left hand side.
For those brave enough or interested enough to continue, or simply too intoxicated to care, I will try to make this more readable by subdividing into a whole range of subsections.
With an unusually inspired burst of originality, I will call these Part I and Part II. Part I is about the history of the Scots Pine. Part II expands to cover members of the genus Pinus which can be grown in gardens.
Even I should be able to cope with the discipline required to construct an opinion of two sections. If I lose the plot along the way, be sure to let me know.
The tree we know as the Scots Pine grows widely throughout Europe. However, Pinus sylvestris comprises many strains, and only Pinus sylvestris var. Scotica (otherwise known as Pinus Scotica) is indigenous to my homeland. This tree formed the backbone of the Caledonian Forest, or Wood of Caledon, which clothed most of Highland Scotland, and indeed much of the Lowlands, for many centuries. It is, however, a common misconception that this ancient forest no longer exists. Relics of the old Pine forest remain, mainly, and fortunately, now in reserves managed by the Forestry Com
mission, Scottish Natural Heritage, the RSPB and others.
Substantial areas of native pinewood exist at, for example, Rothiemurchus, Braemar, Rannoch Moor, Glen Affric, and Loch Maree (and given that these are all sustainably managed and open for public access and recreation, I’ve just realised the potential for new topics . . .). Smaller remnants are all over the place. I believe, for example, that in Glen Falloch there are a mere, but vital, twenty four native pine.
So what went wrong? Where did it all go?
Three major factors contributed to the decline, or indeed rape, of our pinewoods.
Timber. Before we learned to produce timber in a sustainable fashion (if indeed we have), pine was identified as the ideal timber tree. At it was abundant. It is still the principal wood in the building trade, where it is more anonymously known as redwood. You probably didn’t know it, but your roof trusses are almost certainly made from my (second) favourite tree. But as demand for timber grew, the Scots Pine was felled mercilessly.
Grazing. And sheep. And the Highland Clearances. The trauma of the Clearances is well known and documented as it relates to people, and rightly so. It is less well remembered, that vast tracts of native forest were cleared at the same time to accommodate the woolly grazing machines.
Jacobites. Eh? Yes, incredible though it may seem on such a scale, after the 1745 uprising and Culloden, the army of Butcher Cumberland destroyed uncountable acres of forest in the Highlands, simply to deny hiding places to the defeated supporters of Charles Edward Stuart.
But hopefully the threat is now past. Thanks to the reserves mentioned above, and the move towards sustainable forestry practice, our native pine will recover, albeit slowly.
With its deeply fissured pinky-red bark, and its needled crown so beloved of a red squirrel as rare now as the pine itself, this
majestic tree of up to 100 feet is a bit on the large side for the average garden. I would love so much to exhort you to plant a native Caledonian Pine in your plot, but common sense must prevail.
But the whole pine family is one worth befriending.
For the rockery or rock garden, an absolute must is Pinus Mugo Mops, a dwarf, spreading pine growing a mere 2½ inches a year.
With a little more space, you can grow some of the shrubby pines. Pinus pumila is a low, spreading shrub which in maturity will rarely exceed 3 metres. Bred from our own “sylvestris” is Gold Coin, rarely exceeding 2m, with gold-tinged foliage. Or Pinus sylvestris Beuvronensis, which rarely exceeds 1m.
Och, there are so many, I could turn this into a catalogue.
Go to the Garden Centre. Demand Pines, of garden size. Insist on sensible, detailed information, especially about the eventual height and spread.
Gosh, it’s nearly a month since I last had time to write an opinion. I’ve been getting withdrawal symptoms.
In fact, you could say I’ve been pining . . . .