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Does anyone else have Monkey Puzzle Trees

theyardman
12 years ago

I am curious if I am the only zone pusher to have Monkey Puzzle Tree? It is a beautiful and prehistoric looking plant. It is very hardy here in a Zone 6, but it doesn't grow too much.

Any reason why? I've had it 3 years now and have only seen a six inch growth over those years.

Please advise, maybe they are just slow growers, or maybe it just needs to get established, or what else could it be?

Comments (124)

  • L
    5 years ago

    sc77, Staten Island is all clay soil.


  • sc77 (6b MA)
    5 years ago

    This is interesting... A cold hardy cultivar Araucaria Araucana 'Robusta Gheri'

    http://www.havlis.cz/karta_en.php?kytkaid=873

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  • stuartlawrence (7b L.I. NY)
    5 years ago

    I would like to know if anybody planted a new monkey puzzle tree this year? Any update on how their Monkey Puzzles are doing?

  • davidrt28 (zone 7)
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    I doubt the sort of people who pay $500 for a 3' tall one at Merrifield, "Terrain at Styers", Hicks, maybe, on Long Island etc. etc. are the sort of people who spend time posting here ;-) (I didn't see any at Behnkes - good for them)
    It's good to see the one outside Dumbarton Oaks soldiering along, it seems to be past the phase where acute, immediate death is likely. (the one I know that died in Columbia, MD was about 8' and had probably been in the ground less than a decade...I seem to remember people talking about the Dumbarton one since the early 2000s)
    Supposedly Beatrix Potter wrote a whole book about designing the garden there, one of the themes of which was how hard it was to create English style gardens in the climate of Washington. It would be funny if she used monkey puzzles as an example. But the fact is they clearly are hard to grow outside maritime climates* with the vast, vast majority of the ones planted anywhere on the east coast, dying.

    * - or as my travels to the antipodes showed, sometimes in maritime climates!

  • cm05
    5 years ago

    I see these all the time on Long Island, some upwards of 15-20 feet tall. In some areas they aren't even a rarity. I would've never guessed that they were difficult to grow on the east coast, it doesn't seem that way based on the amount that I've seen.

  • davidrt28 (zone 7)
    5 years ago

    Well by all means, feel free to share some pictures, or post the locations of these 20 footers you see "all the time". It's most interesting that Stuart, who also lives on LI and is very enamored of them, hasn't posted more pictures.

  • davidrt28 (zone 7)
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    While I'm reviewing my quite amusing contributions to this thread, I'll note that floral_uk misunderstood what I was saying when responding to me: "Araucaria auracana grows in a lot of areas of the UK (not just Wales and Cornwall)"

    I was pointing out they grow in Wales and Cornwall to observe that high summer rainfall ISN'T a problem for them in a maritime climate with chilly summers. I know they grow elsewhere in the UK and British Isles. ̶W̶a̶l̶e̶s̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶C̶o̶r̶n̶w̶a̶l̶l̶ ̶a̶r̶e̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶m̶a̶i̶n̶ ̶p̶a̶r̶t̶s̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶U̶K̶ ̶h̶a̶v̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶w̶h̶a̶t̶ ̶w̶e̶'̶d̶ ̶c̶a̶l̶l̶ ̶h̶i̶g̶h̶

    ̶s̶u̶m̶m̶e̶r̶ ̶r̶a̶i̶n̶f̶a̶l̶l̶, over 2.5 inches per summer month. Most Americans would be surprised by how low summer rainfall figures are for places like London, York, Edinburgh, etc. The Italian Lakes region has much higher summer rainfall averages than anywhere in the British Isles. They don't grow as well there, but there are still plenty of them. (see my pictures above)

    [edit above: it's irritatingly impossible to find something as simple as a 'average July rainfall' map of Europe...even though there are plenty of them for the US...but now that I revisit this question, western Scotland and Northern Ireland probably have higher summer rainfall than either Cornwall or Wales. And there are MPs up there, too. The closest to a good map might have to be from an American website! http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/precip/CWlink/wayne/monthly.jul.precip.gif But even those places aren't very wet compared to Lago Maggiore, so that's probably a better example of them tolerating high summer moisture, provided the days and nights aren't too hot, than anywhere in the British Isles]

    We also know they grow in the milder (winter) parts of the interior west...away from the extreme coastal influence...places like Weed, California, for example, which have hot summer days. But NEVER have wet summers.

    So the problem is places with our humid continental climate...are many muggy summer nights and the possibility of extremely moist soils for days on end, after hurricanes or stalled front storm systems. That's what finished off many MPs planted south of NYC. North of there...the winters start to get too cold! Long Island probably IS the an 'optimal' spot for them on the east coast, but only just : we know the Gold Coast estates tried them 1880-1930s (old primary sources I found in google books a few years ago), and yet still, no old 40+' ones were ever known there!

  • stuartlawrence (7b L.I. NY)
    5 years ago

    David, I saw a large Monkey Puzzle which was at least 15 ft tall in Suffolk county. My mom saw a healthy 6 ft Monkey Puzzle in Franklin Square. Unfortunately I don't know the address so I can't see it in Google Maps.

    Here's a 6 ft or taller Monkey Puzzle which was planted maybe a year or 2 ago which has been doing well Link. I periodically check on the tree to see how it's doing.

  • stuartlawrence (7b L.I. NY)
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    I found a Monkey Puzzle in Franklin Square by going down the streets in Street Maps Link.

    Update: I found another one in Franklin Square in Street Maps Link. This is the one my Mom saw

  • davidrt28 (zone 7)
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Ok, that first (and second) street view was pre-polar winter I and II though. Why don't you drive by there and see if it's still alive? I swear I remember reading somewhere that the one at Planting Field Arboretum died recently in one of those winters. That's going to be the problem on LI probably...ok for most summers, ok for most winters...dead during severe winters. Of course winters in Philly or Silver Spring, MD aren't that much milder...but those 2 biggest eastern US MPs are probably extra-tough plants.

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)
    5 years ago

    I gotta laugh at the notion that 15' is considered a large monkey puzzle :-)) While I understand the difficulty getting them to grow long term in not well-adapted climates like much of the east coast, it is hard to reconcile 15' being considered large for this tree. Multiple very large examples of this tree - 50'+ - abound in my area, some more than 100 years old, like these two. One located in an older neighborhood in Seattle that was reputed to be largest MP in the city (if not the state) was summarily cut down in 2010 when the property was sold and the new owners were not enamored with the idea of a 60'+ wickedly sharp tree planted within 20' of their house!

  • davidrt28 (zone 7)
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    "difficulty getting them to grow long term in not well-adapted climates like ̶m̶u̶c̶h̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶ the east coast"

    There, fixed it for you haha.

    Seriously though, I don't mean to be a hard-ss to people who want to grow this plant...I remember being fascinating by them as a teenager and dutifully ordering one from Forestfarm. I'm very glad we have a couple big (but not really big) ones on the east coast. I don't think we need the UK's "tree protection order" system (but it's their business that they have that, and they probably do need it) - but if there were ever a case for it around here, preserving the two extent eastern US trees would be a case for it. (Lest another 'professional landscaper' decide to cut one down for as bright a reason as 'not looking English enough' - absolutely the most hilarious anecdote summing up how dunderheaded an entire profession can be I've ever heard! Present company here on gardenweb excepted, of course.)

    But it's a shame for me for people to waste their financial resources and mental energy on something so clearly temperamental, when there are various other interesting conifers, that *will* be durable, that they could be planting. North of zn 7, Sciadopitys is even more of a 'living fossil' - there are fine ones in the colder suburbs of Boston. In zone 7, Cunninghamia is quite nice looking if grown well. In milder parts of zone 7 like my garden (hopefully haha), there's Taiwania.

    Also a shame for people ignorant of how they are at maturity...to plant them 3 ft. away from their house, as in one of the examples above. I guess that's a negative side effect of them being so uncommon around here, and Americans so untraveled...even within their own country. (plenty o' big ones in the PNW, as gardengal says)

  • stuartlawrence (7b L.I. NY)
    5 years ago

    Well the first Monkey Puzzle I posted from Franklin Square is indeed dead. I saw the 2015 update on Street Maps and it's not there anymore. The second one from Franklin Square is currently alive.

  • davidrt28 (zone 7)
    5 years ago

    OT but I'm curious, what is 'Street Maps'? A competing product that isn't on the web?

  • stuartlawrence (7b L.I. NY)
    5 years ago

    Sorry, I meant Google Maps

  • stuartlawrence (7b L.I. NY)
    4 years ago
    last modified: 4 years ago

    I might plant a monkey puzzle in the front of my house. In terms of survival is it better to go with a smaller Monkey Puzzle like a 4 footer or is it okay to go with a 6-7 footer. Also does it matter if the Monkey Puzzle is field grown or container grown?

  • stuartlawrence (7b L.I. NY)
    4 years ago
    last modified: 4 years ago

    Bump, Is it better to buy a Monkey Puzzle that's field Grown (B and B) or container grown? Anyone know?

    Thanks

  • stanofh 10a Hayward,Ca S.F. bay area
    4 years ago

    Bunya Bunya here in town. Also,Hoop Pine (about 110-+) and Norfolk Island to its left.



  • davidrt28 (zone 7)
    4 years ago
    last modified: 4 years ago

    Well, if you still want to try one (why?), I don't think it matters.

    The issue is much more how well grown it was from the seedling stage to when you get it. I am increasingly finding container stock that got root bound at the liner stage, and was potted up several times before reaching the "end user". (me) But this doesn't mean it's exclusive to container stock: I have bought B&B plants that I later found to have knotted roots. Like my ill-fated Fagus 'Rotundifolia' that I took a 12 hour drive to purchase. It just so happens I buy more container stock, so I see more of it there. The issue can affect B&B stock too...which often starts life as a liner or container. cf: http://www.raemelton.com/bartletttreerese.html

    Up where you are I'd focus more on getting a hardy one. IIRC, didn't I already tell you to inquire at Burnt Ridge Nursery? Ian Barclay told me years ago they were getting their MP seed from a tree in the interior PNW that had seen very cold temps like -10F. Get one small and then you can know the roots are ok. You could always ask him of course, too, he might sometimes offer them.

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)
    4 years ago

    I don't believe I've ever seen a field grown (B&B) monkey puzzle. To the best of my knowledge they are all container grown around here - usually because they are sold while still quite young and they are just a lot easier to handle in a container! These are typically available at any decent independent nursery in my area, although not often in great numbers :-) The largest I've seen for sale was only about 4-5' tall and it too was in a container........but a big one, maybe 20-25G. They are most often sold as 1's or 3's.

    I just got a new design client with a substantial monkey puzzle tree on his property, maybe 25' tall. First time I've included (or needed to include) one in a landscape design!! This should be fun :-)

  • stuartlawrence (7b L.I. NY)
    4 years ago

    Should I plant the monkey puzzle on a mound to improve drainage?

  • davidrt28 (zone 7)
    4 years ago

    That's what I would do, though I cannot guarantee it will have the positive impact it seems to have so far for *me*, with rot sensitive rhododendrons. A mound of the existing soil - you don't want an interface between two soil structures.

  • stuartlawrence (7b L.I. NY)
    4 years ago

    Yes, I would only use the existing soil. How many inches higher than the outside ground do you think it should be planted?

  • davidrt28 (zone 7)
    4 years ago
    last modified: 4 years ago

    Hhhhmmmm...maybe a 3-4' diameter ramping up to 10-12", assuming you are starting with a small plant. Again this isn't really advice per se; it's what I would do if I wanted to grow a MP for some reason. My advice would be to not risk the disappointment LOL.

    BTW you might as well consider using something like Actinovate, too. Or rather, I would consider that hahaha...the late Kathy Van Veen told me it stopped root rot on lepidote rhodies being rooted in humid greenhouses.

  • stuartlawrence (7b L.I. NY)
    4 years ago
    last modified: 4 years ago

    I appreciate the advice. I don't want to start with a small Monkey Puzzle because it will take years to get big. If I bought a bigger Monkey Puzzle that's container Grown and it's root bound can I loosen the outside roots? I read that Monkey Puzzles don't like root disturbance.

    Thanks.

  • davidrt28 (zone 7)
    4 years ago
    last modified: 4 years ago

    "If I bought a bigger Monkey Puzzle that's container Grown and it's root
    bound can I loosen the outside roots? I read that Monkey Puzzles don't
    like root disturbance."

    Exactly.

    Therein lies the catch-22.

    If you plant a root bound plant - and if it's root bound enough, there's almost a guarantee it is going to fail. Possibly long down the road and it will be very frustrating when it happens - like the Fagus 'Rotundifolia' that died after almost 10 years for me. Dug it up and found the root 'system' was mostly a bowling ball sized knot. Sickening. The blame in that case mostly lies with the retailer I bought it from, because I'd bought a huge B&B specimen and assumed it was OK.

    But some plants are going to resent your attempt to fix the problem. I've become more and more aggressive over the years...it mostly works out. Fortunately I have now fixed my other 2 beeches. Or at least it seems like I have. OTOH, I had a potted Rhododendron arboreum that shocked me by having formed 2 HUGE encircling roots. I assumed I could just straighten them out. First one seemed flexible, but wasn't...it snapped. I should have stopped there. Second one...I'll just try to straighten it out more gently this time i said to myself...nope...it snapped too. Needless to say, the plant expired. It might have been ok if I'd done it in the fall...they are used to dry winters after all. Doing it just before it got hot was too much.

    So it's a trade off you have to weigh before purchasing. A really, really good nursery tries to stay on top of the problem. I don't think most of them fall into that category these days. The rush to optimize field production and get plants out to retailers faster and faster has probably been a bad thing, relative to this issue.

  • stuartlawrence (7b L.I. NY)
    4 years ago
    last modified: 4 years ago

    Thanks. Where is a good nursery to buy from? Iseli? Can Actinovate harm the monkey puzzle? Where can I buy Actinovate? How much of Actinovate do I apply?

  • davidrt28 (zone 7)
    4 years ago
    last modified: 4 years ago

    " Can Actinovate harm the monkey puzzle?" It seems incredibly unlikely, but natural fungal (well Oomycotic!) control is an inexact science. You can always just use mephenoxam, aliette or one of the even more expensive and exotic antifungals labeled for Phytophthora. But trying to keep it alive by permanently treating it with those is likely to backfire anyhow...I can't remember, did you say you have sandy soil? Most of Long Island does. Since they seem to last for a few years up there before catastrophe strikes...maybe focus on what causes the catastrophes in the first place? Maybe just develop a 'protocol' that you're going to treat them with Aliette if the long range QPF predicts over 5" of rain the next 7 days, from May to October? You would want to treat them before, not after.

  • stuartlawrence (7b L.I. NY)
    4 years ago
    last modified: 4 years ago

    Thanks for the info. You still think I should stay away from getting a Monkey Puzzle?

    I have sandy soil.

    I know of 2 larger Monkey Puzzles in my neighborhood that are doing well. 1 has been doing well for about 15 years the other was planted a few years ago.

    The nursery I go to had 2 large monkey Puzzle planted a few years ago as a showcase. They're planted on a mound. I saw them today and there's some browning on the lower branches. Maybe the cold temperatures from early January stressed it?

  • davidrt28 (zone 7)
    4 years ago
    last modified: 4 years ago

    Maybe the cold temperatures from early January stressed it?

    Yes I just saw one in Rhode Island that was damaged, but still alive.

    They're planted on a mound.

    Looks like I'm not the only one who's onto something...


  • stuartlawrence (7b L.I. NY)
    4 years ago

    So I should stay away from getting one?

  • davidrt28 (zone 7)
    4 years ago
    last modified: 4 years ago

    Maybe the cold temperatures from early January stressed it?

    Yes I just saw one in Rhode Island that was damaged, but still alive.

    They're planted on a mound.

    Looks like I'm not the only one who's onto something...

    "You still think I should stay away from getting a Monkey Puzzle?" I just think that with something that's been a prestige plant since Victorian times, surely admired by many an aspiring New England and NYC area gardeners, you're very unlikely to 'outsmart' the fact that a truly mature one has never been known north of Philadelphia. And there's only one there! But I seldom let the odds [stop me[(https://www.houzz.com/discussions/im-trying-an-azara-on-the-east-coast-tell-me-ill-fail-dsvw-vd~1636360). Good luck!

    (FWIW, turns out Azara are by far the most humid heat resistant commonly grown tree/shrub from Chile - BUT - so, far, just not quite hardy enough. I just had another one burn up this January...subsequent to the one in that thread. Though there's the powerful justification game - "if only I'd done ____" - a standard Camellia japonica cultivar would have been burnt up too, in the very same spot. Conditions in the first couple weeks of January were ridiculously cold and windy. So maybe it just needed protection from winter sun. Yes, I'm trying again! 3rd time's the charm LOL. FWIW, a Rhododendron 'Choremia' right next to it was only moderately burnt and is already forming buds. Proving how much hardier even a rhodie cultivar with a not-very-hardy reputation is, than an Azara. The 3rd, and final, Azara I'm trying is the supposedly extra-hardy Xera clone, for which Forestfarm wanted a pretty penny!)

  • davidrt28 (zone 7)
    4 years ago
    last modified: 4 years ago

    BTW a bunch of pre-Houzz thread were crudely edited, which is why there's an odd discontinuity in my first post about Mediterranean climate plants in humid, temperate, cold winter climates. The missing part says Santiago never gets very hot compared to places with similar topography.

  • stuartlawrence (7b L.I. NY)
    4 years ago

    Have you tried growing a monkey puzzle?

  • davidrt28 (zone 7)
    4 years ago
    last modified: 4 years ago

    Many years ago but they died, tried at least 2 small ones from Forestfarm. They were 'tube' size which generally works out, but is a disaster waiting to happen with a plant already so likely to be stressed. (and I certainly didn't know to plant them on mounds, back then! in fact I think I put one in rather wet soil, thinking that was a good idea LOL) If I'd known better I would have at least grown them in a 2 gallon for a couple years. Painting the pot white to help keep it cool, too.

  • sam_md
    4 years ago

    I don't believe I've ever seen a field-grown (B&B) Monkey Puzzle. ......... they are all container grown....

    A casual search of a Maryland retailer shows B&B MP trees for sale. MP is grown in the PNW and shipped across country. That's why they are so pricey.
    Am not aware of any commercial growers in the east who propagate and grow MP trees due to high mortality.

    The nicest specimen of MP tree in my state was planted about 50 years ago. It was added to a cactus collection as a small plant. It was planted at the top of a hill and now towers over everything else.

    My suggestion to stuartlawrence is to go to 208 Darlington Ave on SI, knock on the door and ask a lot of questions. Take pix and report back what you find out.

  • davidrt28 (zone 7)
    4 years ago
    last modified: 4 years ago

    Yep, pretty hilarious...700$ for a tree that has 9/10 odds of dying in a few years.

    The 208 Darlington is hardly 40' tall but it does seem to be past the point at which most of them die, which is up to about 10 ft. or so.

  • stuartlawrence (7b L.I. NY)
    4 years ago
    last modified: 4 years ago

    "Am not aware of any commercial growers in the east who propagate and grow MP trees due to high mortality." Sam, I emailed Broken Arrow Nursery in Connecticut and I was told that they grow Monkey Puzzles. They grow theirs in containers.

  • davidrt28 (zone 7)
    4 years ago
    last modified: 4 years ago

    I love the "Soil: Acidic, Alkaline, Clay, Loam, Neutral, Sandy" on the label. It's just a big annual anyhow, so it takes anything.

    Sam, do you have to be a landscaper to walk into a John Deere sales yard?

    And I assume you are referring to the tree in north Baltimore, right?

  • stuartlawrence (7b L.I. NY)
    4 years ago
    last modified: 4 years ago

    For anyone who's interested there's a larger Monkey Puzzle at Hofstra University on Long Island http://plantsigrowforfun.blogspot.com/2014/01/rare-monkey-puzzle-tree.html.

    The site here says the Monkey Puzzle was planted in the mid 90's.

    Being planted right next to the building must give it some shelter.

  • davidrt28 (zone 7)
    4 years ago
    last modified: 4 years ago

    Hhhhmmmm. He/she took that picture was taken "a few months" before Jan. 2014, which was the first polar vortex winter. At least one of the recent PV winters would have been the coldest since 1994. So, I'd want confirmation it is still there.

  • stuartlawrence (7b L.I. NY)
    4 years ago

    Assuming the date is correct a photo of this tree was posted June 2017 on this site.

    http://flippetyfloppety.blogspot.com/2017/06/monkey-puzzle-tree.html

  • davidrt28 (zone 7)
    4 years ago
    last modified: 4 years ago

    OK. Also good to know it was purposefully planted! As opposed to all that aimless planting that goes on in botanical gardens.

    So we can now say they grow from Long Island to Northwest. (DC LOL.) JK: they grow [permanently] for a lucky few in that corridor.

  • stuartlawrence (7b L.I. NY)
    4 years ago
    last modified: 4 years ago

    I spotted a larger monkey puzzle when I was in woodmere. Here it is on google maps. It's next to the red car: Link

  • stuartlawrence (7b L.I. NY)
    3 years ago
    last modified: 3 years ago

    I spotted 2 semi large Monkey Puzzles in Long Island. You can view them on Google Maps: Link

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)
    3 years ago

    Those are just babies!! Here's a shot of a couple of venerable specimens in a older Seattle neighborhood.


    House was built in 1909....these were probably planted not long after.

  • davidrt28 (zone 7)
    3 years ago
    last modified: 3 years ago

    The most recently posted Long Island street view is from 2012! No proof they are still there after the 2 polar vortex winters. And the other recent winter that was very cold in New England but not as much down here. (2016 IIRC: well below 0F on Martha's Vineyard. Have no idea how LI fared)

    They often look out of place in typical residential settings but I think those twin Seattle trees suit the house and are well taken care of so I give them a pass! Good catch GG.

    I am actually wondering if the NW DC, Bethesda, and Baltimore trees survived this horrid summer...by far the most humid I can remember. We barely had any comfortable dewpoints throughout September, not until the last few days. USUALLY cold fronts start pushing in some crisp weather by the 2nd week of Sept. It was a constant steambath since May. And yes it is humid compared to the PNW, but constant dewpoints 70F or above are not normal at least up here. There's a reason you see at least a few old ironclad rhodies in the DC/Baltimore area, but none in the deep south.

    And other than the late June/early July drought/heatwave - just long enough to be a nuisance - incredible rainy spells, one after another. I'm lucky to have only lost a couple important rhodies to root rot. OTOH it was nice to not worry about watering the 6 or so new planted camellias in my garden. They are so thirsty in the first year!

  • stuartlawrence (7b L.I. NY)
    3 years ago
    last modified: 3 years ago

    I spotted a larger Monkey Puzzle in Oceanside, Long island when driving by. I can't get newer than 2012 on Street View but here's the Link

    "The most recently posted Long Island street view is from 2012! No proof they are still there after the 2 polar vortex winters."

    At least one of them is still around. I spotted the Monkey Puzzle on channel 12 News when they were showing a specific street, that's how I found it when I looked up the street on Street View.