Category Archives: summer

What is a Pinetum, and Why Are They So (literally) Cool?

Of all the ways in which our ancestors manipulated the landscape for their benefit, surely the Pinetum (plural, Pineta) is one of the most sublime and attractive.

Think of a Pineta in the same way as you would an orchard, except planted on the geometric grid are pine trees instead of fruit or nut trees. The trick to growing and maintaining a successful Pineta is the correct selection of an appropriate Pine variety and also the correct spacing.

The Pine selected (to my way of taste) should be fairly thin-trunked in relationship to its overall height. In our area, Limber Pine, Lodgepole Pine, and especially Loblolly Pine make great Pinetum. Pick one species only, and plant them far enough apart so that at maturity, the canopies healthily touch and cross without overly rubbing and crowding (which would promote disease). Pines which naturally shed their lower limbs are perfect, although some pruning needs to occur as the trees become established. Limbing up pines helps to develop a more umbrella shape to their individual form, which is exactly what we want.

Pinetum are best sited on the southern side of a property in order to maximize its benefits and catch prevailing summer breezes. A well designed Pineta creates a cool microclimate with high, filtered sunlight and a lovely carpet of pine needles below. The sound and smell in a Pineta are soothing, especially when the winds pass strongly through the branches, and the sweet fragrance of resin is prevalent.




Villa Doria Pamphili, Rome– area of the original Pinetum (G.B. Falda, Giardini de Roma, 17th Century)

Below is a ‘Pinetum-wannabe’, it’s a grove or bosco of Eastern White Pines I actually helped to plant when I was a lad. I don’t think Pinus strobus (Eastern White Pine) make the best variety for Pineta because they are strongly whorled trees (branches grow in rings) and their enormous girth over time, these trees are easily 2-3 feet in diameter. Nevertheless, if the property management would commit to clearing out all of the dead or fading lower branches I think it would help immeasurably. By limbing up you lighten and open up what could otherwise be felt as dark and brooding, and the trunks themselves begin to resemble the columns of a high building, say a cathedral.

Eastern White Pine, Pinus strobus