Is pine a crazy choice for a front ornamental tree?

ttonk(OH 6A)March 17, 2013

So...I have been thinking about this for quite a while but still couldn't come up with the ONE tree I can plant at the front corner of my house.
Today I happened to drive by some older neighborhood (40-50 years?). Most of them have one giant tree on the front yard close by the sidewalk (oak or maple or evergreen, all taller than 50ft-60ft), and smaller multi trunk type trees near the houses. I couldn't figure out what were those trees as none had any leaves or flowers yet (even though they did, I wouldn't know..). But they were mostly multi-trunked. Must be redbud, dogwood, magnolia, serviceberry etc.
Then I saw this one house with a gorgeous pine tree. A pine tree as the front corner tree was not a familiar scene to me but it worked for that house, and the tree was so pretty. It was about 20-30 tall with the most graceful shape. There was a trunk up to about 10 ft height and then there was a cone-shaped canopy as in kids could walk around underneath it. The pine leaves were light green. Maybe it was because it's winter time, so the evergreen tree among all the skeletons stood out. But it looked very pretty.
So.. is a pine tree as an ornamental tree common/acceptable in your area? What kind of pine tree could this be? Where do I start the search? I searched pine and front yard here but found not much info. I googled "pine tree" and they all look different from what I saw.
My front yard if facing east. The corner I have in mind is north-east. Soil's clay. Zone 6A. Drainage is okay but not great. Watering is no problem.
Sorry no pic of the tree. We just drove by..

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
WxDano(5b-2a-6/7)

Depends upon which way the front is facing. To the south, bad choice. To the north, good choice.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2013 at 5:09PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Suzi AKA DesertDance Zone 9b

This seems odd to me. We have groves of pines on our hillside, and they don't care which way they face. All get sun all day, unless a bigger pine provides shade.

I would love a single pine in the front, but it would get too big and drown the house, so I'm stuck with a couple Italian cyprus statements!

Good luck with your pine!

I might get a small one in a pot out front, and string it with lights at Christmas!

Suzi

    Bookmark   March 17, 2013 at 6:28PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
gardengal48

Not at all a bad choice....depending on selection. And I'm not at all sure I'd agree with the above orientation restrictions, either :-) IME, most pines prefer full sun so a southern exposure is pretty much exactly what they want.

Unless you have a massive front yard, I'd restrict my choices to some smaller growing varieties - 'Thunderhead' Japanese black pine is a great choice. Others I might consider are 'Spaan's Dwarf' shore pine, various Japanese white pines (there are scads of compact/dwarf cultivars) or really any pine cultivar that grows slowly enough or stays comfortably under 20' would work well. Many weeping forms would fit this bill also.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2013 at 6:32PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
WxDano(5b-2a-6/7)

And I'm not at all sure I'd agree with the above orientation restrictions, either :-) IME, most pines prefer full sun so a southern exposure is pretty much exactly what they want.

I'm talking about the building envelope considerations.

Most houses are not insulated well enough and we use trees to condition the envelope. So in the winter, we use sun to heat the building rather than energy. Houses with evergreens to the south cost more to heat in the winter.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2013 at 7:11PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
sam_md

Pine trees have been planted for centuries as ornamentals. I would definitely stay away from the house so your roof and gutters don't fill up with needles.
This one is Pinus parviflora 'Miyajima and was started in 1625.
I realize that you may not want to invest that much time in one tree :) Therefore shop for Japanese White Pine which makes a great ornamental - just keep it away from the house.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2013 at 8:11PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
oath5(z6b/7a MD)

Pines can be gorgeous. I'd design an entirely evergreen garden if given the chance.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2013 at 12:27AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
WxDano(5b-2a-6/7)

I missed this bit in the OP, apologies:

My front yard if facing east. The corner I have in mind is north-east. Soil's clay. Zone 6A. Drainage is okay but not great. Watering is no problem.

Northeast is a good corner for an evergreen. OK drainage might be OK for a pine, depends.

From the description the OP might be describing a spruce, very common tree in the landscape here. Depending upon where you are, there may be pests that make the choice problematic, your local County Extension has all that information for you.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2013 at 1:27AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

pines are conifers.. as well as trees.. there is a conifer forum.. should you wish to be totally enabled ...

the group Pinus .. as a species.. are forest trees ... they are very fast growing ... 3 to 5 feet per year.. weak wooded.. and subject to damage from storms.. including wind .. snow.. and ice ...

they are forest trees.. and really do NOT belong in suburbia.. unless they can be 30 to 50 feet from any structure ...

that said.. there are hundreds.. if not thousands of NAMED CULTIVARS ... that are much slower growing .. see link.. specifically the section about conifer sizes ... and note the GROWTH PER YEAR... and understand that all size ESTIMATES are at 10 years.. and you can expect them to be twice as big in 20 years.. and keep growing the same for you life ...

below is a pic looking east from my front door ... the sky is the limit ... on what you can plant.. but do not think any of those.. are simply species pine .... you are going to have to pay some money.. to get the proper plant for your space ...

and do let us know.. if you are using the word PINE.. loosely ... and guessing as to what that evergreen plant is ... they arent all pines ... and many of my friends .. hosta friends, mind you .... cant tell a pine.. from a fir.. from a spruce.. and think they all have pine cones ...

good luck

ken

Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   March 18, 2013 at 7:17AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
strobiculate

people seem to have the impression that there is a long list of right and wrongs in landscaping.

the list of truly right and truly wrong is short. the list of what any given person considers right or wrong is vast, ever changing, and never ending.

Your landscape is about you and what you like. As such, it is defined as highly subjective. One person may have a particular affinity for a given plant, be it sumac, persimmon, pine, or oak, and think every situation absolutely requires one.

One person may see a tree in a given situation, for instance, a pine tree off a corner of a house, and see summertime shade. Another may look at the same house, same tree, and see wintertime shade.

There is no reason both cannot be correct. And others can look at it and see something else and perceive other things that they are conditioned to see.

The list of right and wrongs? Don't plant something that grows taller than the eave beneath the eave. and don't plant something that wants to grow to have a massive trunk within that same diameter of the foundation.

A lot of people spend a lot of time trying to tell you they match plant selection and soil types. Unless you have a truly challenging situation, and those are extremely rare, they are selling you something that really doesn't exist. Plants are adaptable and as far as I know, illiterate. Which is good.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2013 at 8:10AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
krnuttle

One of my favorite tree combinations is pine and willow. I think the contrast light and dark greens make a very nice back ground for the basis of your landscape.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2013 at 8:38AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
WxDano(5b-2a-6/7)

A lot of people spend a lot of time trying to tell you they match plant selection and soil types. Unless you have a truly challenging situation, and those are extremely rare, they are selling you something that really doesn't exist. Plants are adaptable and as far as I know, illiterate.

Wow. A lot of books will have to be re-written if this is true.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2013 at 9:34AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
lcadem

I agree with strobiculate. Choose the plant you like. Unless you live in extreaordinarily severe conditions, you should be able to have large pines. Here in central Iowa there are several house with several 50-70 years old austrian pines within 50 feet of the house and they are stunning.

I would be mostly concerned about diseases in the long run.

Also, I have 7 scotch pines in the most windswept corner of my property and none of them ever shed one branch

    Bookmark   March 18, 2013 at 10:31AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

I have a columnar spruce as the back drop off the corner of my home. Gives my dwarf Firebird crabapple a tapestry for the red fruit to pop in winter. Pinus cembra is just behind and offset to the spruce.

If you go pine I'd suggest Pinus cembra for its slow, somewhat columnar growth and it maintains needles on multiple years of growth. Plus the needes are soft and they take wind better than other soft needled pines.

Drainage is critical for many pines and some struggle in clay (mainly due to root rot during winter/early spring). If you plant a bit highter you'd be fine. Pinus cembra is one that adapts to well drained clay.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2013 at 12:53PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
calliope(6)

Pines are present all over the world, and vary in their presentation. Biggest problem in using a pinus is indeed pests. Diplodia has hit my austrian pine plantings hard. Two so far has had to be felled, and I have a lovely little landscape specimen my partner refuses to fell, showing sympoms early. I got news for him, it ain't a gonna get prettier. LOL. So far, the red and mugho have escaped it. Got a nice little pitch pine by the pond, and have had pine saw flies times two years. I don't use chemical controls, but did on this one and it recovered only to be hit by a second invasion of them. I'm not so sure it's salvageable now. If it is, it's gonna be ugly for a while.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2013 at 2:18PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ttonk(OH 6A)

Thanks all. Learning a lot here. So those who don't know much about or fear "problems" such as pest (like myself), pines would be a bold choice.
Whether it was indeed a spruce, now I'm not sure. I thought I knew pines from the color of the needles (more light green) and their formation (more like cloudy?), but I don't know much about pines and spruce. Imagine a person who can only make a distinction about trees whether it's a cone-shape evergreen or a popsicle-shape non-evergreen. That would be me this time last year. So it could have been a spruce with a special needle color.
I googled "pine" and "spruce" and these look similar to what I saw. The first one is a spruce.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2013 at 2:41PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ttonk(OH 6A)

Pic #2

    Bookmark   March 18, 2013 at 2:42PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ttonk(OH 6A)

Pic #3
These are all bigger than what I saw and bigger than I'd like as an ornamental tree but the shape of the tree was like this.

This post was edited by ttonk on Mon, Mar 18, 13 at 14:44

    Bookmark   March 18, 2013 at 2:43PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ttonk(OH 6A)

I failed to mention that I'm talking about a spot that is 10' from the corner of the house. But I can go further out like 15' from the house if needed.

This image from the search of "pinus cembra" has some similarity.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2013 at 2:59PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
WxDano(5b-2a-6/7)

The one you like is, as described above, a spruce of some sort. 15 feet from the house is an entirely different matter. Pinus cembra that close to the house won't matter in your lifetime, but if the house is still there in 50 years, that will be a likely problem. 10 feet is a definite no-no. 15 is a no-no in my book but YMMV on this board. The builder here planted a Pinus nigra 7 years about 9-10 feet from the house and we're about 10 years away from cutting it down. But faster growth than P. cembra.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2013 at 4:42PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

So, ttonk, any chance of you taking a picture of the tree you saw and putting an end to the guesswork?

tj

    Bookmark   March 18, 2013 at 7:54PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
mrsgalihad(5 CO)

Another possible one to consider for ID is Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus). They tend to be a lighter color and until they get huge they are mostly cone shaped. It's one of my favorite trees and has cool, elongated cones.

Here is a link that might be useful: White Pine

    Bookmark   March 18, 2013 at 9:14PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

your pix.. spruce .. pine.. then another spruce.. i think.. pix are fuzzy ...

but my point.. if i ever got to it is... those trees.. in your pix.. can NOT be planted.. within about 30 feet of your house ....

we dont know how big your front yard is.. but in most of suburbia .... those tree are problematic ... somewhere down the line .... usually when you dont have the money to have an old tree removed ....

but.. as i said.. there are plenty of dwarf versions that would give you decades of pleasure ....

BTW .. i have about 600 conifers.. in every color under the rainbow.. color is definitive of nothing ... yes.. even one that flushes red for about 30 seconds in spring .... and the black ones are usually the dead ones .. lol ..

ken

ps: maybe not orange ... but there are purple cones .... blue.. red.. yellow.. green.. purple ... white.. yeah.. i think i didnt stretch the truth .... OH!!!! ... the paper covers on Picea pungens buds.. could be called orange ... lol ... that is probably the spruce in pic one ....

Here is a link that might be useful: 4th pic.. i win.. lol ...

    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 8:05AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ttonk(OH 6A)

Okay...so I got several good tree names that I can ponder upon, along with warnings on the distance from the house.
Thanks all!
Regarding going back and taking a picture....
One, I don't exactly remember where it was as I was just driving by. Two, what do I do if the homeowner spots a lady with a paparazzi camera taking pictures of his/her house and comes out and asks me "Can I help you?"
Do I say, "Um...I'm from the Garden Web Trees forum...."? :-)
Ken, you always make me giggle. Yes you win.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 3:37PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
wisconsitom

Ttonk, you can't know this without having hung out here for a while, but we all vary in what we're likely to tell you. My buddy Ken, for example, is just about 100 times more paranoid about trees being near buildings than I am.

I too have seen tallish conifers used off corners of houses to great effect. Find one you like and plant it. Maybe you'll go 15 ft. away instead of 10. But between your ability to remove low branches at some point in the future, and your option to fell the whole thing should that present itself, you're hardly taking a big chance with anything here. And while I doubt you'd ever have to remove the tree, it is just not a difficult thing to do.

+oM

    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 10:28PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
edlincoln(6A)

Where my parents live most of the ornamental trees in the front yard are pine. I will warn you that Japanese Black Pine and Austrian pine may be very subject to disease in parts of the US. (My parents lost all their black pines to turpentine beetles...not sure if they were Japanese black pines or Austrian pines).

Pines are perfectly happy facing South, but the theory is you want to plant deciduous trees South of your house because they will shade your house in the summer when it is too hot and loose their leaves in the Fall when you want the sun to heat your house. Pines to the north tend to block north winds in the winter.

The other popular use of pines is privacy screening and wind breaks.

I think Eastern White Pine, Blue Spruce, Norway Spruce, and fir are attractive trees. Eastern Red Cedar isn't terribly attractive but is small and super easy to care for. (VERY bug resistant). Dwarf Alberta Spruce is also tiny. Young fir and spruce tend not to have much space underneath for kids to play in.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2014 at 7:12PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

calliope, I have a dozen dwarf mugo pines, and use this on the pine sawfly larvae: a 50-50 mix of isopropyl alcohol and water, with a bit of dishwashing detergent as a wetting agent. It kills them immediately. Maybe you'd find it less objectionable than the chemicals you're using.

Last year they managed to eat fully half the needles on the northernmost of my mugos (which is consistently the favorite target), and this was the first spring I saw a few branches whose new needles didn't grow in.

[And a heart-felt Thank you! to whichever old GWebber posted that formula 8 or 10 years ago. The same formula seems to work on mealy bugs.]

    Bookmark   January 24, 2014 at 8:19PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
scotjute

Eastern Red Cedar and Arizona Cypress are the only conifers I am familiar with that I would plant that close to a house. They are nice trees in Z7 & 8, assume they will look good up there also as they are listed for up to Zone 6. 15' is better than 10'.
Prefer trees to be 18-14' from house minimum. Both trees would need to be in a well-drained area.
I would not recommend any large pine tree closer than 30' from a house as Ken mentions above.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2014 at 10:29PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
beng(z6 western MD)

Even the supposedly lowly Pitch pine can make a fine specimen tree -- near Columbia, MD:

    Bookmark   January 25, 2014 at 10:01AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
calliope(6)

Thanks for the tip on the alcohol and water bath.........it should work. I have a wonderful, established feral bee colony and fruit trees, I am loath to use anything with residual to impact pollinators.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2014 at 9:15PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
blakrab

Hmm, why is the pitch pine considered "lowly?"

And is this what this is?

Here is a link that might be useful: Pine Tree?

    Bookmark   January 26, 2014 at 1:31PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
jcalhoun(8b Mobile County AL)

There is an oval shaped pine with smooth bark and short needles that makes a nice looking landscape tree.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2014 at 4:08PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Last tree is a true cedar.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2014 at 10:00PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
beng(z6 western MD)

blakrab says:
Hmm, why is the pitch pine considered "lowly?"

It's never planted & only available from a few hard-to-find sources. Any I've seen are wild trees/volunteers left growing. Same thing w/Table Mountain and Virginia pines. Descriptions in books are invariably "poor form", "unattractive", etc, which is often true in their preferred, stressful, poor-soil habitats. They do & look much better on better soils & sites.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2014 at 9:51AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
edlincoln(6A)

blakrab: Doesn't look like a pitch pine. If it is in your neighborhood, look at the bark and needles. The needles would come in bunches of three and the bark in big chunks that you can pull off.

The pitch pine is what my Dad calls a "weed tree". It's considered unattractive. Also, they planted a lot of them on Cape Cod for erosion control and people are sick of them.

beng: Where can I even get pitch pine saplings? I've been looking. My parents lost all their Austrian Pines or Japanese Black Pines to disease and salt spray damaged a lot of the other trees.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 1:20PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
NB_2009(7a-Long Island, NY)

Try Go Native Tree Farm. Bought a Pitch pine, Chestnut oak, and a Hemlock from them last year and quality is excellent.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 6:00PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Trunk Rot. Should I shovel prune or can this little JM recover?
shovel prune or is this something it can recover from?...
kjmm1
Dombeya blooming!
A tropical hibiscus + hydrangea like flowering tree. Notice...
jujujojo_gw
where to prune these maples?
ugh what happened to GW?? anywho - need some advice...
skyjumper
How far should Sassafras and Blue Spruce be from the road?
I have a tentative plan I started on in Spring for...
edlincoln
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™