Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Senior Horticultural Interpreter.
Sitting in a large pot at the center of the Flower Garden is Pinus parviflora ‘Azuma,’ a dwarf Japanese white pine.
It is a very handsome little tree with a neat yet informal framework of branches, covered in dense tufts of blue-green needles that, because they are slightly curved, show off the narrow white lines on their undersides.
Dwarf mutations of conifers occur naturally, often in the form of a “witches’ broom”—a compact, many-branched shoot arising from just a single bud of an established tree.
Propagation material is taken from these growths and grafted onto rootstocks, which are young specimens of the regular species, thereby producing trees that display this compact habit. A close look at the base of this tree’s trunk reveals a difference in girth just at the point where it was grafted by the nurseryman, many years ago. The rootstock is much thicker because it doesn’t have the dwarf habit of the cultivar.
“Dwarf” can be interpreted as “slow growing” and that is certainly true of this tree. It is at least two decades old and yet stands barely three feet high.
Planted around the edge of the container is a planting of perennial pansies, adding a touch of color for season.