By the time the wind had stopped blowing, needles from my neighbor's white pine tree were all over our place. It was a wonderful windfall, though, because I'd been handed bundles of free "pine findings" (dry pine needles), a perfect material for mulching acid-loving plants.
In the meantime, my neighbor's white pine was no worse for wear, because right on schedule, and even though it looked a little ragged, the 20-year-old tree had simply shed its 2-year-old needles that had turned yellow and brown several weeks earlier.
I also harvested a bumper crop of pine cones from the windswept tree, a phenomenon that supposedly portends a severe winter.
Pinus strobus (Eastern white pines) are typically sold as landscape specimens or as live trees purchased with their roots wrapped in burlap for transplanting after the holidays. This time of year they're sold as "fresh-cut," holiday trees, too.
When using them in a landscape setting, give these trees plenty of room to grow. They can live for up to 450 years and grow as tall as 100 feet when planted in full sun and in soil that drains freely.
Soft, pliable and attractive, blue-green "needles" (leaves) occur in bundles of five that are 2 to 5 inches long. Plus winged seeds are contained within brown and slender pine-scented cones that are 3 to 10 inches long.
The pleasant and long-lasting aroma of the cones comes from a gummy resin the cones exude from their tips. If kept dry, cones last indefinitely.
Which reminds, a decade ago, I created a holiday wreath by stringing white-pine cones together in clusters of three by wrapping them with fine wire. Then I wired each cluster to a grapevine wreath. Now we use our "ever-brown" wreath every holiday season, and although the cones have long since lost their scent, they still look as fresh as they did the day they were harvested.
We replace the wreath's lost scent, by the way, by tucking several pine-scented sprigs into the wreath at the beginning of each holiday season.
This week in the garden
I was thinking about trimming our hollies. But I've decided to wait until after the holidays, so we can use the red-berried greenery for holiday decorations.
There's no rush to prune them, anyway, since it's a job that can wait until early spring.