It’s extremely hardy. It’s pest free. It’s more disease resistant than the genus at large. It maintains a beautiful, dense, columnar profile for the first 25-30 years of its life. And it rarely exceeds 40’ tall and 15’ wide.
Yet it is doggone unusual to see Swiss Stone Pine (Pinus cembra) outside of botanic gardens and arboreta. The primary reason for that is it grows soooooo slowly. And more often than not, we want more immediate gratification in life and our landscapes.
Early in my career, the nursery I worked at had a pair of them at our landscape offices. They stood gracefully like sentinels on either side of the road that led to our employee parking lot.
To the best of anyone’s recollection the trees had been in for over 30 years and still were less than 20’ tall. And they were also in textbook, columnar form.
I had a great photo of those two specimens with puffy white clouds and blue sky for a background that I used for years in presentations. But, alas, the photo has disappeared along with much of what I had stored in 35mm format. And when I went back to photograph digitally a few years back the nursery had been sold and converted to condominiums. Imagine that.
Like limber pine, Swiss Stone Pine has stomatic lines which are a nice detail when viewing the tree up close. Due to the slow growth rate, it can be used in small space gardens where other pines might outgrow the boundaries.
I’ve seen it a couple of times in Lincoln Park settings where space is at an absolute premium and have used them when I can find them. But if you cannot find Swiss Stone Pine in commerce, you can find them at the Chicago Botanic Garden.