Ponderosa culture for the South-question

Kirk

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Has anyone had or witnessed success with Ponderosa pines in the South, i.e. Atlanta area? Granted, my exposure is limited with them but I have yet to see one thrive. The examples I have seen languish and die a long, drawn-out death. Could just be the owner's of them not providing proper care, but I just wasn't sure if it was a species ill suited to our area.

For example: Much as I love them, I wouldn't spend a huge amount of cash or time on a Colorado Blue Spruce for our climate. You see the occassional one in the landscape but they are usually still quite young "live" Christmas trees that often do not survive into maturity. They don't seem to dig our hot, humid nights and mild winters.

Any experience would be appreciated.

Best,
Kirk
 

Dav4

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Hey Kirk,
Having recently moved to the Atlanta area with a nice old yamadori ponderosa, I'm interested in the answer to your question as well (I also have 2 Lodgepole yamadori, which are similar to ponderosa). Before moving here from MA, I contacted the Atlanta Bonsai Society and asked them basically the same question, but included Rocky Mountain Junipers, as I have 3 nice old specimens, too. The response from several experienced members: bring the RMJ and leave the ponderosa, with the reason being, as you said, the ponderosa failing to thrive and weakening over a period of years.

I have discussed this with several other hobbyists experienced in growing ponderosas. Apparently, ponderosas grow well in Dallas with all its heat, so the heat of Atlanta shouldn't be an issue. They also seem to grow well in several other southern states with long, humid growing seasons. The Monastery in Conyers (SE of Atlanta) has a very large, apparently healthy Japanese White Pine in its collection, and I would think if you can maintain an old JWP for a while here, you can probably do so with a ponderosa.

I certainly hope my tree continues to do OK...it was never an exceptionally strong tree in MA, but it has a very nice sinuous trunk and aged bark typical of the species, and it was smaller then my other ponderosa which is happily enjoying the change of seasons in New England right now. It's planted in 100% inorganic soil, gets fed and watered regularly, and gets about 5-6 hours of afternoon sun and dappled shade otherwise(that's the best I can do in my yard right now). If I didn't already own one prior to moving, I honestly doubt I would try to maintain ponderosas here as I do suspect they are at their southern limits here in North GA and will never thrive like other pines might (JBP and JRP, perhaps). I hope I'm wrong...

Dave
 

rockm

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"The response from several experienced members: bring the RMJ and leave the ponderosa, with the reason being, as you said, the ponderosa failing to thrive and weakening over a period of years."

This is the exact opposite experience the National Arboretum in DC (Which has roughly the same climate as Atlanta --although colder winters) has had with its RMJ and Ponderosas. The collected desert RMJs donated by the icons of California bonsai a couple of decades ago have been fading away branch by branch for years, despite heroic efforts to prevent it... From what the Arb has seen, RMJs simply cannot deal with the oppressive summer humidity. They decline and die over decades. They're tough trees, but a fish out of water in this area.

Ponderosas, however, do quite well around here--provided they're given the correct growing media--which is basically soiless and heavily granular--straight pumice or the equivalent. Excellent drainage is critical. There are a number of collectors here who have been keeping Ponderosas for years with success. They require no winter protection here, as our winters are well within their tolerance level.

RMJs are more climate-specific and not as wide-ranging as Ponderosas in the wild. RMJs require more specific, higher, drier, more alpine climate, while Ponderosas are pretty adaptable, capable of living in a wider variety of conditions and soils.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ponderosa_Pine
http://www.mpcer.nau.edu/pjwin/rcky_mtn_juniper.html
 

Dav4

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I was going to Mention Warren Hill...I saw his ponderosa in Rochester last year. He told me emphatically that Ponderosas would grow in the Atlanta area...he actually said "you can grow anything there". Still, as Mark said, "a fish out of water" is still unlikely to do well long term. Tennessee and Washington D.C., though having basically the same summer temps and humidity of Atlanta, are further north and have longer, colder dormant seasons. I'm no expert, but I feel this is most likely a major issue with maintaining healthy ponderosas

As far as the the RMJ's tolerance to the local climate, again, I'm no expert. I've personally only grown them for 4 years now. 2 of the 3 trees I brought have some fungal issues (tip blight)...they were afflicted with the same disease in MA each spring/summer, as well. The affect on the trees was always minor, and the tree have been developing nicely. They grow in the same inorganic soil as my ponderosa. While researching the feasibility of growing RMJ in Atlanta, I found that; 1) folks have been growing them for years here as bonsai without too much difficulty, 2) they(RMJ cultivars...not the species) are being sold at every landscape nursery around (I know, I have to take that with a grain of salt)...Dirr notes certain cultivars have been successfully grown in the landscape as far south as Orlando. I don't see many pine species other then loblolly being offered at these nurseries, either while many different juniper species/cultivars are available, and 3) in my experience, Junipers are, in general, just more adaptable plants that can be successfully grown in vastly different climates...pines, not so much.

Anyway, I certainly hope the trees I have now will adapt (me, too) to the southern climes, and that we'll spend many happy, healthy years together down here. I would love for others from the area to chime in with their experience, but I won't hold my breath for responses...I just don't think there are many hobbyists (or professionals, for that matter) growing either species in the Atlanta area.

Dave
 

rockm

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"still, as Mark said, "a fish out of water" is still unlikely to do well long term."

To clarify, I was talking about Rocky Mountain Juniper not doing well in an Eastern/Southeastern climate. Ponderosas adapt well here, from what I've seen and heard. It is the Rocky Mountain Junipers at the National Arboretum that are in decline.
 

Dav4

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I understood that...I was inferring that both the ponderosa and the RMJ are "fish out of water" here and would be much happier in the cooler, drier regions of the upper Midwest/Northwest. Having said that, I'm betting with myself that RMJs are, perhaps, a little more adaptable. By the way, Mark, are you sure that the junipers in decline at the Arboretum are not California Junipers as opposed to RMJs...just wondering.

Dave
 

rockm

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Apparently, the western junipers are not doing all that well, california or otherwise--these are collected trees, not landscape varieties, so they may be more vulnerable to the climate. The huge collected ponderosa bonsai at the Arb is going on 30 years in the collection and is apparently pretty healthy.

http://www.bonsai-nbf.org/site/whats_new_archive4.html
 
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Dav4

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Apparently, the western junipers are not doing all that well, california or otherwise.
Thanks...Not the news I like to hear. 2 of the 3 RMJ I have are exceptional, I think...my guess is they are anywhere from 3 to 6 hundred years old based on trunk girth, have amazing natural deadwood, and are slowly developing into truly wonderful bonsai. I'm still optomistic they will continue to develop/grow well here. We ended up buying a house in northern Cobb county, which is northwest of Atlanta...we're basically at the beginning of the Appalachians and I'm hoping that the somewhat "sub alpine" climate has a beneficial effect on my trees. Don't tell my wife that, though...she thinks we moved to this neighborhood for the good public schools:D:rolleyes:

Dave
 

rockm

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Things might not be as bleak as they may appear and your mileage may vary :)

I'd bet, if your trees are in fast draining soil, they may surprise you. Apparently, from what I can find on the web, RMJ is the western equivalent of Eastern Red Cedar, which grows like a weed on the East Coast.

I have similar concerns about some of the Texas collected oak and elm I'm growing here in Va. Winters are of particular concern for me, as humidity and heat tolerance aren't a real problem with them. I've had these trees for over ten years and they haven't had a big problem--knock wood.:)
 

Martin Sweeney

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Dav4,

My experience with Ponderosa Pine is I owned one lively little one and I wish I still did.

I think this says more about my ability to grow Ponderosa than it says about their adaptability to this area, however. I was thinking of trying again, but cannot justify the expenditure at this time. I am not convinced that they can't grow well here.

Regards,
Martin
 

Ang3lfir3

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Apparently, the western junipers are not doing all that well, california or otherwise--these are collected trees, not landscape varieties, so they may be more vulnerable to the climate. The huge collected ponderosa bonsai at the Arb is going on 30 years in the collection and is apparently pretty healthy.

http://www.bonsai-nbf.org/site/whats_new_archive4.html
The tree's name is "Jackie Gleason Dancing" because it reminded Daniel of well... Jackie Gleason Dancing.. :p It's a beast! And though its not labeled as such is actually the FIRST tree in the ARB bonsai collection, as it was given to them before the creation of the bonsai collection. For a crazy thought on moving big branches... that long swooping arm was originally sticking straight out. I believe the story of this tree is detailed in Will's upcoming biography on Daniel.
 

Kirk

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Thanks for the input. I'm still going to need to do a little more research on whether or not a Ponderosa is suited for the Atlanta/GA Piedmont climate. Most of the examples cited are either new transplants to the area from a more norther region or trees growing in areas with colder winters and cooler nights. Once you move north of Atlanta to the NE corner of GA or up into TN where Warren Hill is located, you can find hemlock, white pine and blue spruce doing quite well. The terrain changes from piedmont to rolling hills/mountains (our version of mountain, anyway). Hopefully, Dave's will do well and inspire me to give it a go. I didn't want to go to the expense or sentence one to death unless others were seeing some success.

Kirk
 

greerhw

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Hey Kirk,
Having recently moved to the Atlanta area with a nice old yamadori ponderosa, I'm interested in the answer to your question as well (I also have 2 Lodgepole yamadori, which are similar to ponderosa). Before moving here from MA, I contacted the Atlanta Bonsai Society and asked them basically the same question, but included Rocky Mountain Junipers, as I have 3 nice old specimens, too. The response from several experienced members: bring the RMJ and leave the ponderosa, with the reason being, as you said, the ponderosa failing to thrive and weakening over a period of years.

I have discussed this with several other hobbyists experienced in growing ponderosas. Apparently, ponderosas grow well in Dallas with all its heat, so the heat of Atlanta shouldn't be an issue. They also seem to grow well in several other southern states with long, humid growing seasons. The Monastery in Conyers (SE of Atlanta) has a very large, apparently healthy Japanese White Pine in its collection, and I would think if you can maintain an old JWP for a while here, you can probably do so with a ponderosa.

I certainly hope my tree continues to do OK...it was never an exceptionally strong tree in MA, but it has a very nice sinuous trunk and aged bark typical of the species, and it was smaller then my other ponderosa which is happily enjoying the change of seasons in New England right now. It's planted in 100% inorganic soil, gets fed and watered regularly, and gets about 5-6 hours of afternoon sun and dappled shade otherwise(that's the best I can do in my yard right now). If I didn't already own one prior to moving, I honestly doubt I would try to maintain ponderosas here as I do suspect they are at their southern limits here in North GA and will never thrive like other pines might (JBP and JRP, perhaps). I hope I'm wrong...

Dave
Send them over to me in Oklahoma, the climate is a lot dryer that Hotlanta, you wouldn't want them to die would you....:(

keep it green,
Harry
 

rockm

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"Thanks for the input. I'm still going to need to do a little more research on whether or not a Ponderosa is suited for the Atlanta/GA Piedmont climate. Most of the examples cited are either new transplants to the area from a more norther region or trees growing in areas with colder winters and cooler nights. Once you move north of Atlanta to the NE corner of GA or up into TN where Warren Hill is located, you can find hemlock, white pine and blue spruce doing quite well. The terrain changes from piedmont to rolling hills/mountains (our version of mountain, anyway). Hopefully, Dave's will do well and inspire me to give it a go. I didn't want to go to the expense or sentence one to death unless others were seeing some success."

You are tilting at windmills :) Ponderosa and other western conifers are not suited to grow east of the MIssissippi. If they were, they would growing there :D Your concern isn't if they're suited for it, but whether or not they can tolerate it. Comparing "alpine" areas of Ga. and Tenn. to Western "Alpine" areas is like comparing a mountain to a molehill. You have neither altitude, nor climate, on your side. The species of hemlock, white pine and spruce are Eastern species, not western. They're not the same.

I'd quit worrying so much. I don't think it's much warranted. The Nat. Arb's Ponderosa does fine here. Has for almost 30 years. Source location doesn't appear to make much difference in the tree's ability to adapt to Eastern climates. The Arb.'s tree was apparently taken from a pass that is 4,400 feet (probably much higher) above sea level. D.C. is 410 feet--that's four hundred and ten feet-- above sea level:D. The highest point in Georgia is 4,700 feet, which is below where much of Colorado begins:D

Relax. Enjoy your trees. Don't overwater them and leave them out unprotected in the winter in the coldest part of the yard...
 

cquinn

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Atlanta is actually on a slight rise, and is higher than you think. Mountain Laural grows there, and the folks in the club there grow Japanese White Pine with no problem.
 

Kirk

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"Thanks for the input. I'm still going to need to do a little more research on whether or not a Ponderosa is suited for the Atlanta/GA Piedmont climate. Most of the examples cited are either new transplants to the area from a more norther region or trees growing in areas with colder winters and cooler nights. Once you move north of Atlanta to the NE corner of GA or up into TN where Warren Hill is located, you can find hemlock, white pine and blue spruce doing quite well. The terrain changes from piedmont to rolling hills/mountains (our version of mountain, anyway). Hopefully, Dave's will do well and inspire me to give it a go. I didn't want to go to the expense or sentence one to death unless others were seeing some success."

You are tilting at windmills :) Ponderosa and other western conifers are not suited to grow east of the MIssissippi. If they were, they would growing there :D Your concern isn't if they're suited for it, but whether or not they can tolerate it. Comparing "alpine" areas of Ga. and Tenn. to Western "Alpine" areas is like comparing a mountain to a molehill. You have neither altitude, nor climate, on your side. The species of hemlock, white pine and spruce are Eastern species, not western. They're not the same.

I'd quit worrying so much. I don't think it's much warranted. The Nat. Arb's Ponderosa does fine here. Has for almost 30 years. Source location doesn't appear to make much difference in the tree's ability to adapt to Eastern climates. The Arb.'s tree was apparently taken from a pass that is 4,400 feet (probably much higher) above sea level. D.C. is 410 feet--that's four hundred and ten feet-- above sea level:D. The highest point in Georgia is 4,700 feet, which is below where much of Colorado begins:D

Relax. Enjoy your trees. Don't overwater them and leave them out unprotected in the winter in the coldest part of the yard...
Don Quixote of bonsai!

No worries. Just didn't want to spend the dough on a tree without a chance. My hort. schooling and practice has always been in this part of the country and my knowledge of Ponderosas are all from what I have recently read and seen as related to bonsai culture. It's good hearing some success stories on the SE side of the states.

Best,
Kirk
 

Kirk

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Atlanta is actually on a slight rise, and is higher than you think. Mountain Laural grows there, and the folks in the club there grow Japanese White Pine with no problem.
I have seen laurel and the white pine both in landscape and bonsai culture here. Several of our club's members have some nice JWPs. My profile photo has the trunk of the Monestary's JWP.

A few years ago several members purchased ponderosas when Golden Arrow was visiting a show and selling trees. The one's I've seen recently are either on the way to the Great Compost Heap in the Sky or have already turned into very expensive lightning rods. :) I was curious if it was owner error or something related to our specific climate (night time high temps, humidity, mild winter, etc.) that was just too far from any type of alpine climate. Usually you can tell by looking at the health of a grower's other trees and determine if they cared for it properly. In this case, the other trees looked ok but the Pondies looked severe.

I do like the way they look and may give it a whirl soon. We shall see.

Kirk
 

Ang3lfir3

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I do like the way they look and may give it a whirl soon. We shall see.
Don't fight nature and go beating yourself up.... better to focus on species that prosper than those that may fail you. Here in WA we can have some trouble with white pines and so most of us don't grow them, they are beautiful but the truth is there are more vigourous options in our climate to work with (more than most... yes i know).
 

rockm

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i think there has been a breakthrough of sorts with Ponderosa on the East coast in the last five years or so. Growers have found it's all about the soil--No organic content--straight pumice or the equivalent is what is needed. Such soil drains extremely quickly and doesn't stay saturated for very long.

I think in the past, people have tried to keep these trees in soils typically used here on the East coast for pines, with some organic content. That meant they stayed too wet. That's changed, I think. There is also a growing understanding that you can't treat Western collected pines as you treat Japanese species. Just because you can grow Japanese white pine doesn't mean you can grow Ponderosa. In my opinion, successful experience with one type of tree can lead to some overconfidence and misunderstanding about other species. One size does not fit all with care.

Also, there is the "collected tree" syndrome. Collected trees, especially those that haven't been in containers more than 3 or 4 years, can be a little more tricky to care for. Overwatering is a particularly dangerous thing for such plants. Too much water is a major cause of killing off a newly collected tree. With a tree that loves well-aerated soil planted in a heavy water retaining soil, with an underdeveloped root mass, like a newly collected Ponderosa, overwatering can mean death.
 
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