I recently attended an event held at the residence of Los Angeles architect Daniel Monti. The house was originally designed for the architect’s parents who required saving and protecting a large Italian Stone Pine tree located at the back of the property. I was struck immediately by the many vantages of the outdoor garden and the sunlight filling the rooms through the skylights and walls of glass.
Upon entering the home, my eye was drawn to the far end where the lone pine tree stood. It served as a feature in the garden while providing shade for outdoor dining and seating.
As I moved further indoors, I noticed the tree above me, its branches of green pendulous needles arched over the house and framed by the skylights. This single tree embodied a forest. I felt its presence everywhere during a tour of the home; it seemed inseparable from the architecture.
Pinus pinea, commonly called Italian Stone or Umbrella Pine, is native to the northern Mediterranean coastal region (southern Europe to Turkey and Lebanon). It was first introduced to California during the Spanish Mission period and grows well along the California coast. This drought-tolerant evergreen tree gets big, 40-60 feet over time (sometimes more), which means you would expect to find one in a large open space setting rather than a standard-sized residential garden. It develops a broad umbrella-shaped canopy, which flattens with age, and its foliage is comprised of 5-8” long green needles in bundles of two. The trunk of a mature tree is noted for having reddish-brown deeply-fissured bark.
Pinus pinea is valued for its nutritious edible nuts. Several pine species produce edible nuts and their use as a food source has been found in the histories of many cultures throughout the world, including California indigenous tribes. Today, pine nuts are considered a delicacy, with prices to match. The pine nuts from the Pinus pinea are valued as the highest quality of all species based on contemporary preferences for taste, texture and size. They are the ones we find in our grocery stores.