Several years ago I put a dwarf Hinoki falsecypress, Chamaecyparis obtusa, in a pot. It has twisted flattened leaf sprays that undulate up and down the shrub on horizontal branches, giving it a bonsai look. It keeps its deep green color despite my growing it in some shade. The partly shady site has given it a somewhat open habit. It's been a slow grower and is staying a nice pyramidal shape.
Its culture calls for sun to part-shade in moist well-drained soil. It is doing quite well with my sometime care. If I see some browning on the interior leaves, I dump a bucket of water on it. Occasionally it gets some fertilizer, either Miracle-gro or Osmocote. It is an evergreen that tolerates South Carolina heat and my neglect.
I truly appreciate an evergreen like the hinoki. In the summer, the flowerbeds are demanding, of both care and attention. Evergreens, especially conifers, fade into insignificance. When the winter landscape grows bare, these small trees really earn their keep, supplying color and textural interest in a sometimes bleak atmosphere.
Many of the large growing C. obtusa have golden twisted foliage. The cultivar 'Crippsii' grows to 50' tall and 20' wide. 'Tetragona Aurea' has gold to bronze leaves that are greener if grown in shade. Its ultimate height is a more manageable 30'. The yellow hinoki cypress, Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Confucius', tops out at a very manageable five to ten feet.
The wee one of the family, dwarf hinoki cypress, Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Nana', fits into any garden at its one to two foot height and two to three foot width. This is a truly attractive, deep green, underappreciated little tree. This shorty makes for a perfect tree for garden railroads, trough gardens, or fairy gardens.
Along with the numerous growth patterns of hinoki falsecypress, there are many shades of green to blue to gold to bronze needles in the false cypress family. They also tolerate clipping into a hedge, as long as you do not cut the old wood.
For an unusual evergreen specimen tree, or for hedging material a little different from Leyland cypress (Cupressocyparis leylandii) or boxwood, check out one of the hinoki falsecypress. Most are suited for USDA Zones 4-8 and some can take a little shade.
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By Delilah Onofrey, Suntory Flowers
Photographs courtesy of Suntory Flowers
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