A. They might be attractive when they’re small, but most pine trees are large when mature, don’t fit in small to medium-sized landscapes and are not compatible (design-wise) with one to two-story homes. They might be fine for commercial landscapes and parks but not around homes on small residential lots in the desert.
|Aleppo pine in its youth|
I think the trees you saw were still relatively young, 20 years or less, planted too close together and not given enough water. This is why they were round in shape with needles only at the ends of the branches.
Pine tree availability at nurseries is somewhat limited compared to other parts of the country. I believe the pine tree you saw that interests you is an older Mondel or Afghan pine which becomes rounded as it matures and attains a height of 40+ feet.
|Aleppo pine at maturity near parking lot|
Another commonly sold pine here is Aleppo which resembles Mondel pine in its youth. Both trees when younger are pyramidal or Christmas tree-like in shape. Mondel becomes more rounded with age and Aleppo pine becomes “gangly” and informal in shape. Aleppo pine can reach heights of 60 to 70 feet.
|Japanese black pine with its very distinctive silhouette|
A third large pine planted here in the 1980s and making a comeback now is Chir or long-needled pine. It is a very graceful, pyramidal pine less tolerant of cold winter temperatures. All three of these large pine trees should not be used in small residential landscapes particularly with single-story homes.
So-called “smaller pines” may not actually be smaller when mature. Italian stone pine, a pine tree with a rounded shape all through its life, is a slow growing pine that may be acceptable in smaller residential landscapes for a number of years. However, it can reach 50 feet when mature. It can also provide edible pine nuts, the chef’s pignoli.
Our state tree, single leaf pinion pine, would be a good choice for desert landscapes if you could find it. But it to can be large as well, 50 feet or more, when irrigated and given time. It also produces edible pine nuts.
A pine tree popular with landscapers and architects over the years is the very distinctive Japanese black pine. It has been touted to be tolerant of alkaline soil but is a “specimen” pine with a unique shape that makes it popular in “designer landscapes”.However, I have never seen a Japanese black pine perform well here in our climate and soils. You see it used further north in arid states. further north in aired states You don’t find many older ones around town which may speak volumes about how well it is suited for our location.