What to plant with Vanderwolf Limber Pine?

demeron(Zone 6)May 19, 2013

I'd like to underplant or front these limber pines with some wonderful shrubs. Kind of drawing a blank. My usual thought is hydrangea, either a smaller oakleaf or a paniculata like Limelight or Little Lime. I guess it would have to tolerate a bit of acidity from the pine needles--? What do you think?

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Whether you're growing these pines in shrub form (with foliage to the ground) or as trees (with canopy raised above the ground) you'll likely need to enlarge the bed unless the underplanting is anything but groundcover. Suggest you first determine the form you're after and share that info here. Given that we can't see what flanks the space (how it fits into the larger scheme) recommendations would, naturally, be limited.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2013 at 10:55AM
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It's largely a never dying myth that pine needles acidify the soil. It is true that the soil most pine trees grow in is acidic, but sometimes only slightly. Conifers didn't start growing in an area then change the soil requirements to accommodate themselves.

Leaving the dropped needles on the surface to perform a mulching function won't affect anything, simply because plant roots aren't growing on the surface.

The common complaint is that "nothing" grows under conifers - basically that is because the roots are numerous and shallow and outcompete other things for water and nutrients.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2013 at 12:25PM
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demeron(Zone 6)

@ Yardvaark, good question. I didn't plan to limb them up but I suppose if I can't grow anything in front of them, it would make sense. I do like the shape they have. Their main function is to provide a windbreak and visual screening from the obvious monstrosity behind them. That's a 6' fence on the L so they are large trees, 10-12' high. The landscape architect is suggesting a lacecap hydrangea. A 4' diameter shrub would need to go, what, on a 6 to 8 foot center from the trunk?

I am very happy about my grading and the new trees but this has been a fairly worrisome and stressful process. It feels really late to be planting and transplanting-- I did start the process in winter, it just took them until mid-May to get to me. Luckily the weather has been unusually cool and overcast... fingers crossed we stay lucky.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2013 at 8:31PM
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If the trees are primarily for windbreak and screening then you would want to grow them in the shrub form, with foliage to the ground. But you must take into account their full grown size, which seems to make growing them that way impractical over the long haul. (I would not call the VL Pine in the picture "full grown" ... just halfway) ...

Some Hydrangea might last for a while if not planted too close to the pines, but eventually they would get swallowed up.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2013 at 10:58PM
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demeron(Zone 6)

So much for Missouri Botanical's assessment of "20-30' in height, 10-15' in spread." Ah well. We will deal with that situation when it arises. The spacing was laid out by the landscape architect who has 20 years' experience... what can I say?

    Bookmark   May 19, 2013 at 11:18PM
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"20-30' in height, 10-15' in spread." may be true at the plant's 10 year stage, for which most height/spread estimates are given (though this one sounds a little generous.) But plants don't stop growing at 10 years, so one must plan for what they become later on. The tree in the picture is probably 36' or so feet tall, but you can see how much of your yard it would consume. This is a common problem. People plant shrub screens that end up consuming their yard, at which point they are forced to limb up and make trees out of the shrubs. Then, those get underplanted with other shrubs that are not so giant.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2013 at 12:17AM
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