The Rocky Mountain Bristlecone Pine will bring a magical look of the wilderness to your garden. This mountain tree, famous for its longevity in the wild, is a handsome, rugged small conifer with tons of character, that will grow slowly to become a wonderful specimen in any garden. Especially if you live in colder states, and have dry, rocky soil, this is the perfect plant for you.
As part of a collection of other interesting small evergreens, this tree fits perfectly into beds among boulders and rock, in full sun, and turns a difficult spot into a feature of your garden. It can also be grown in a container, and this plant makes an excellent bonsai tree, and fits well into an Asian or Japanese-style garden too, where it looks perfect.
Growing Rocky Mountain Bristlecone Pine Trees
The Rocky Mountain Bristlecone Pine grows slowly into an irregularly-shaped mounding tree, with upright branches creating a striking profile. It grows slowly, adding 3 to 9 inches a year to its height, and spreading slowly outwards. After 10 years your tree will be between 5 and perhaps 10 feet in height, with a spread of less than 5 feet. As the tree grows older it will add fewer inches each year, but eventually this tree could be 20 feet high and 10 to 15 feet wide. As older trees cannot be transplanted very successfully, choose a spot where there is room for its eventual size, putting shrubs with shorter lives around it in the meantime.
The needles of the Rocky Mountain Bristlecone Pine are short, hardly more than one inch long, and cluster densely around the stems. They are deep green to blue-green in color, and often attractively twisted. The needles are flecked with tiny patches of white resin, and this interesting feature is normal, and should not be mistaken for insects. The buds are pointed and a deep red-brown color. The attractive bark is red-brown when young, maturing to gray, and with long, shallow grooves along the stems. Older trees produce cones that hang down, and they are about 4 inches long and 2 inches wide. The tip of each scale of the cone has a long bristle on the end, which gives this pine tree its common name. Cones take 2 years to mature and release their seeds.
Planting and Initial Care
Plant the Rocky Mountain Bristlecone Pine in full sun, in very well-drained soil. In nature this tree grows among rocks and debris at the upper edge of the tree-line, and it will not tolerate wet soil or poor drainage. Plant in the upper part of a slope, or on a mound, and not in a low-lying spot. Do not add manure or organic material to the soil. No pruning is required or advised, and the tree should be allowed to develop naturally – every tree will have a unique form and become very individual. This tree is very hardy, growing well in the coldest zones, down to minus 50 degrees. It does not grow well in hot, humid areas.
Uses on Your Property
The Rocky Mountain Bristlecone Pine is a wonderful choice to grow among rocks and gravel, perhaps with other small evergreens like the Mugo Pine, dwarf Fir trees, spreading Junipers, dwarf holly, and other miniature trees. Create a bed combining spreading, mounding and upright forms, leaving plenty of room for them to develop. Add some large boulders and mulch with small rocks and gravel, to make a terrific feature in your garden that will become more and more beautiful as the years go by.
These collections need almost no attention, but they add year-round interest to any garden. They are particularly useful in colder states, where the choices of plant material are more limited. This tree is also perfect in an Asian or Japanese garden setting, because its irregular form and appearance brings just the right look. It can also be grown in an attractive shallow container as a bonsai tree, and its slow growth means it will need little pruning.
History and Origins of the Rocky Mountain Bristlecone Pine Tree
The Rocky Mountain Bristlecone Pine (Pinus aristata) is one of a group of three closely related species, all called bristlecone pines. This one grows in Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado, always at high altitude, in rocky, barren and dry soils. The other two species are harder to grow in gardens and they are all very similar in appearance. All Bristlecone pines live for hundreds of years in the wild. The oldest, up to 5,000 years old, and the oldest living thing on the planet, is the Great Basin Bristlecone Pine (Pinus longaeva). The oldest Rocky Mountain Bristlecone Pine is just 2,400 years old, and trees typically live to about 1,500 years old in the wild. We do not know how long trees will live in gardens, but in suitable dry, rocky soil they will certainly outlive all of us, and our children too.
Our trees are grown from seed, and it takes years for them to reach a suitable size for sale. Seeds are taken from the healthiest, most vigorous and oldest trees, to ensure you have the best form in your garden. These remarkable trees are always in high demand, as production is difficult and slow, so our limited stock will soon be gone to connoisseurs of the rare and beautiful. Order now and plant a tree for your grandchildren’s children.