A towering Eastern white pine, Pinus strobus, grows in Marjorie’s garden only 10 feet from the porch steps, a tree 60 feet tall with a trunk diameter at breast height of 25 inches. During the reign of King George III, a tree of this size would barely make the cut for use in the hull of an English warship, but by modern standards it is a tall pine.

The lichen-stippled trunk is branchless for the first 12 feet, followed by several whorls of dead horizontal branches, broken to various lengths by the weight of ice and snow, then a broad-spreading canopy of branches bearing needles and cones.

The section of dead branches, all we can see of this tree from the upstairs bedroom window, is the stage for Daybreak Theater, complete with accompanying symphony.

As the sun rises above the trees along the Union River, chickadees fly in from the porch feeder to crack open sunflower seeds, using a pine branch as an anvil.

Gravity-defying nuthatches creep upside-down on the trunk or along the lower side of a branch.

A hummingbird surveys the garden from a branch tip, its ruby throat sparkling. Out of sight in the canopy, red squirrels chortle as they play hide-and-seek around the bole; crows caw, mourning doves grieve — oo-wah-hoo-oo-oo.

And there is middle-of-the-night entertainment from the same stage. Dogs bark at porch noises and wake us in time to see raccoons scurry up the pine’s furrowed bark to a safe perch on a dead branch, bright eyes shining back at us in the dark.

Another white pine grows in the garden among the blueberry and strawberry beds. Seven years old and 6 feet tall, it is clothed in long, soft blue-green needles with only a few inches of smooth gray bark visible between each whorl of branches. One side of each needle is marked with a thin silver stomatal band, the location of stomates, pores in the leaf that allow for gas exchange.

If only this little pine would stay small, or grow only a few inches each year so it would always grace the garden with its lovely foliage without blocking the sun. We know better, and are making plans to move it.

Gardeners can keep the beauty of white pine foliage at eye level with slow-growing cultivars. Among the smallest of these is ‘Blue Shag,’ a compact globose shrub with blue-green foliage. It grows only 3 to 6 inches a year, reaching 3 to 5 feet tall and wide in 10 years, a perfect pine for rock gardens.

Another even smaller cultivar, ‘Greg,’ has a tightly branched rounded habit and blue-green needles. It grows at a rate of 3 to 6 inches a year to produce a 2- to 3-foot-tall shrub in 10 years.

‘Uconn’ is among the best of the larger, more treelike, cultivars. Developed at the University of Connecticut, it grows more than 12 inches a year to reach 6 to 10 feet in 10 years. A 15-year-old tree at UConn measures 18 feet in height with a rounded top and 11 feet wide in the middle. Its bluish green foliage is far denser than the other species.

One of my favorite white pine cultivars is ‘Pendula,’ a weeping form with long blue-green needles gently cascading from twisting, pendulous branches. It grows 6 to 10 feet tall in 10 years, averaging 12 inches a year.

Iseli Nursery, an Oregon company specializing in conifers, recently introduced ‘Angel Falls,’ a refined version of ‘Pendula’ with a strong weeping habit and a profusion of buds and branches.

These and other slow-growing cultivars of white pine provide gardeners with a wide choice in growth habit and foliage color. Their slow rate of growth keeps the beautiful foliage of our state tree at eye level for decades.

Then again, we feel fortunate to have a towering white pine and its inhabitants in Marjorie’s garden.

Send queries to Gardening Questions, P.O. Box 418, Ellsworth 04605, or to rmanley@ptc-me.net. Include name, address and telephone number.