Posts Tagged ‘swamp cypress’

Deciduous Conifers

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Of the few deciduous conifers that exist on this planet the Larch, or Larix, is probably the best known.  There are some 11 species of it that grow from the Western US across the to the Atlantic seaboard and others that grow across Europe to Siberia and into the Himalayas and beyond to China and Japan.  The one I’m showing you here is a form of the Japanese Larch, Larix kaempferi, called “Diana”.  It’s a uniquely contorted form that bends and twists as it grows fast to a small tree of maybe 30 feet tall, in not much time, given that it’s grown 3 – 3 1/2 feet for the last two years I’ve had it and it’s still growing this year.  It turns an amazing golden yellow in fall and can be seen from the house it’s so bright and clear in its color.

We won’t get much shade from this tree but its form and texture makes up for that quite well.   This tree is in the Pinaceae, or Pine family, along with another of these deciduous conifers called the Pseudolarix, or Golden larch.  It’s not a true larch but sure does look like one. Another great tree for fall color too.  It goes bare in the fall too.  So don’t be shocked when that lovely conifer you have in the front yard loses its leaves in the autumn.  They’ll come back in the spring all feathery and bright green and new.

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This tree in the Cypress family, or Cupressaceae, is well know in the south eastern parts of the US.  It’s a variety of the  Swamp Cypress that inhabits the swamps and wetlands of that area. This is the Taxodium distichum variety called a “Peve Minaret” for the developer of it in Holland.   This is a dwarf form of the tree that will only grow to 10-20 feet tall, depending on which web site you read.  I’ve only seen them get to 10 feet or so myself so we’ll see how it goes. The species tree grows to 100 -150 feet and is a valuable timber tree for commerce in its native habitat.  The wood is known for its ability to withstand rot, as is true with many plants in the Cypress family.  Not surprising, as it grows in water.  It also develops “knees”, or roots that come up above the water line.  Very cool…

This tree turns a lovely shade of orangish brown before it drops its needles in late fall.  It’s late to leaf out in the spring too but the foliage is such a treat it’s well worth the wait.  It’s one of my “pettable” trees because it’s so soft to the touch and easy to be around.  Not prickly like so many conifers are.  This tree is only 5 years old from a 5 ft tree, and it’s now over 10 feet tall and 7 feet across so it’s going to get much bigger in time.  Maybe  it’ll get to that 20 ft. mark.  I’d like that, but since it only puts on about a foot each year, as is typical for many mid sized dwarf trees, it’ll take another 1o years or more to get there.  I can wait…

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This one is perhaps my favorite tree in the garden.  Maybe.  I have so many I love.  This is a variety of the famous Dawn Redwood, or Metasequoia glyptostroboides.  This variety is called “Miss Grace” and it’s a weeper that I had to train up to get it to its current height of 9 feet.  Though it’s the smallest of the redwoods, the species will grow to over 200 feet tall in central China where it was just “discovered” in the early 1940’s.  It was found in the fossil record just before then and was a surprise to be found living still in its native habitat.  Its’s endangered there but its seeds have been sent to arboreta and nurseries all over the world.  I planted my first one for my folks back in the early 70’s and I sure would like to see it now.  It must be close to 80 feet by now I’d guess.  Wow!  I wish my folks had been able to keep that home…. ah well.  But I digress…

The story of this particular cultivar, “Miss Grace”, is that the nurseryman that found it thought it was going to be a weeper and trail along the ground.  But overnight the nursery workers tied it up to be a tree, so that’s what happened.  I worked hard to get mine this tall but it wouldn’t stay put when I tried it to get it to 10 feet and it fell over about 2 months after I took off the training stakes.  So now it weeps down all over itself.  It’s another one of my “pettables” because it’s so incredibly soft to the touch.  It turns a lovely shade of orangish brown, like the Taxodium, in the fall before it loses its needles.  It grows a little slower than the other ones, at several inches a year, so it’ll be a treat to see how big it will get in time.  I’m excited to see how it does.

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Some folks will say I’m cheating with this one.  Many people call this a conifer but it’s not really one.  It’s clearly related it’s true, but it’s not truly a cone bearing tree like the confers.  It’s a Gymnosperm tho like confers but is closer to the cycads (like Sago Palms…) than the conifers.  But I’m including it anyway because so many people call it one, including the  American Conifer Society.  So I’m fine with putting it in this list.  This is a Ginkgo biloba variety called “Jade Butterflies”.  It’s a relatively small dwarf tree that will grow to the usual 10-20 feet tall, but so far it’s only gotten to about 8 feet in my garden.  It’s grown about a foot a year tho so it won’t take it long to get to full size.  The leaves look like small butterflies which is why it’s named for them.  I can see it, but it’s a  fanciful name, as so many botanical names are.  That’s OK, it suits it.

This is a unique tree, being the only member of its family -the Ginkgoaceae – and has been around for over 270 million years in its current form.  It’s called a living fossil and it truly is.  Here in Washington State we have a State Park called the Ginkgo Petrified Forest and we visited it last year on a trip across the country.  It was amazing to see the little leaves in the rocks and to imagine this tree being around way before the dinosaurs and humans by ages.  It’s truly a piece of living history.  There are some giant trees of this type growing all over the world now so it’s a treat to have a small one here in our small garden.

Well, that’s a tour of  some deciduous conifers.  The only one I didn’t mention was the Chinese Swamp Cypress (Glypstrobus – like the Metasequoia glyptostroboides which was named for it.)  I feel privileged to have at least 3 ( maybe 4) of the 5 (maybe  6) deciduous conifers on the planet.  I try to have a great variety of plants in this garden and now have over 200 different varieties or cultivars.   It’s a lot of why we call this a Sanctuary, and sometimes a mini Botanical Garden.  I purposefully sought out these deciduous conifers for their unique status and their wonderful habits of growth.  I like it that they lose their leaves and die back each year.  It’s nice to provide a different option for the garden instead of a dark heavy conifer.  These are all much lighter feeling and the loss of leaves makes them look delicate and fine.  Just my opinion, but I find them fascinating.  I hope you do too.

No, they aren’t dead! 🙂

Steve

 

Taxodium distichum “Peve Minaret”

 

I wrote a profile of this plant a year and 1/2 ago, but it’s grown so much since then and all I posted then was a single shot, so I thought I’d do a pictorial journey thru this plant’s life here in our garden. We planted it in early April 2011 so it’s only been growing for 3 years and a bit. It grows pretty fast for a dwarf. This is a cultivar from Holland of the Swamp Cypress that grows all over the Southeast of the US and is endemic to the swamps and wet places of the region.

As a tree it gets quite big, but this little dwarf will only get to some 10 feet by 3-4 feet , or so they say. It’s already that wide or wider but only about 6-7 feet tall so far, tho it’ll be taller in a couple of months as the top grows. I’ve noticed an interesting thing about this tree, and several other conifers, that intrigues me. It starts to put on growth at the bottom of the tree first and then works its way up to the top after several weeks of growth. It’s in that stage now where it’ll put on a new top, and it should put on a foot of growth there if it does what it did last year, which is no definite indication but hopefully it will do so. It also tends to put on several tops and then reduce them to just one. I’d heard that you had to prune the extra ones out, but that’s not true. The trees know what to do I’ve noticed so I just let them do it. Sometimes it’s best Not to prune…

I did a lot of research on this tree, as I outlined in my previous post I did on it here: https://gardeningingreenwood.wordpress.com/2012/11/28/the-persistence-of-greenery/. I’ll try not to repeat too much of that post but I want to talk about it a bit. It’s a unique plant in that it’s one of only a few conifers that lose their leaves in the fall and renew them in spring. The others are the Larix, or Larch, the Metasequoia, or Dawn Redwood, and the Ginkgo, or Maidenhair tree. There’s some debate about whether or not the Ginkgo is really a conifer right now but I like i that way so I’ll include it anyway. I have a Metasequoia and the Ginkgo in the garden as dwarfs but no Larix, yet… I haven’t found a dwarf of it and I wouldn’t have space to put it anyway so it may not be in my agenda. But we’ll see.

This plant loves wet places to grow as I mentioned and that’s the primary reason I planted it here. This is a really wet spot in this peat bog we garden in, and we lost a few other nice plants here before I did the research to find this one that loves having its feet wet. It’s thriving where it is so I think I made the right choice. I also planted a creek dogwood and a choke cherry along this fence line as they also love the wet soil, as do the dwarf Cryptomerias along the edge of the bed. The only original plant I put in here that survived is the Inverleith Scotch Pine and I’ve read that Scotch pine like it a bit wet too so that makes sense. It’s doing great too and it is now over 10 feet tall, it’s supposed height, tho some say it gets much bigger. I assume it will.

This plant is one of my “pettable” trees because it has such gloriously soft foliage and is so nice to touch and stroke. The others are the Metasequoia and the Cryptomeria elegans that both have very soft foliage and don’t feel like most conifers at all. I’m fond of touching the plants I grow just to get a”feel” of them and so I notice little things like soft foliage on conifers. It’s a treat to feel them. I have a few really prickly plants too, like the Oregon grape and Mahonia charity and even the Osmanthus goshiki, so it’s nice to have others that you can actually touch, tho the others are so soft when they put on their new growth it’s hard to imagine how tough they will become.

I’ve arranged these pictures in chronological order so you can get a sense of how fast this tree really does grow. I’m really amazed by this and it’s good for me as I’m pretty impatient at times and it’s hard to wait to watch plants grow slowly when you want them to get big fast. It’s a trap of course and it’s a joy to watch the Chamaecyparis obtusa Nana only putting on about a 1/16″ of growth a year. You can just see it on the tips of the branches. The same is true of many other dwarf confers, like the Cryptomerias Tansu, Pygmaea and Vilmoriana. They all just barely let you know they’re growing and it’s so cool to know they are and yet don’t show it much. Slow has it’s place just as fast does.

So I hope you found this enjoyable to see how this lovely tree grows so nicely and fills out so well as time goes on. If it does grow this much in only 3 years it’ll become a larger tree in time I think, despite the things they tell you on various websites when you look them up. I’d love it if it did get bigger than its supposed 10 feet but if it doesn’t do that I’ll be happy too of course. I just have to keep the creek dogwood next to it away from its top so it can get there. I have to do a bit of pruning to keep all the plants in their spaces and be cool with one another in their growth habits. It’s a nice challenge to grow this garden and I’m so glad you stopped by to see some of it.

Good growing to you!

Steve

The Persistence of Greenery

This is really just a post to talk about how much I love this particular plant. It’s a Dwarf Swamp Cypress, a Taxodium distichum variety from Holland called Peve Minaret, that only grows to about 10 feet tall and 3-5 feet wide, so they say on the tag and on websites. It could get bigger I suppose and it’s growing at a fair pace of about a foot a year for the past 2 1/2 years so far. It’s about 6ft tall now. I planted it in the wettest section of the garden. That’s its feet you see in the Living in a Peat Bog post on here. It’s so wet there that there’s literally standing water whenever we get a good rain and I’ve lost a nice Japanese Maple “Bloodgood”, a “Charity” Mahonia and almost lost a beautiful Enkianthus campanulatus Siko Kianus that has fortunately come back after much pruning and tender loving care and planting in a drier spot.

I did a lot of research before I bought this little beauty and tried especially to find a conifer that would grow in this wet spot. I found few of them that weren’t huge trees and I really don’t have room for them. I needed a dwarf and I found it in this specimen. It’s a conifer that is unusual because it’s one of only about 3 I know of that are deciduous, unless you count the Ginkgo and there’s some debate about whether it’s really a conifer going on now so I won’t include it at this point, tho I have a dwarf one and would love to include it as another one in my collection. It does lose it’s leaves and right now as you’re seeing it it’s still holding on late into November when most things have dropped all their leaves here, except for the Liquidambers which amaze me with how long they stay in leaf. But this one not only stays in leaf it stays Green for so long it stuns me. It’s still so soft and “petttable”. I chose it as one of my Faves on my website if you care to look at it and read about it some more. In fact I encourage you to look at the website attached to these blogs. It’ll give you a bigger picture of what I’m working with in writing them. OK, enough self promotion for the moment.

I read that sometimes these things will actually put on the knees that it’s larger cousins in the swamps put on to get air into the roots and to stay upright in the water. I’m looking forward to the day that the lawn mower catches a knee coming up so we have to start mowing around it. That’d be so cool I think. Anyway I’m so amazed that this tree is still green after so long. But it’s a trade off because it comes into leaf so very late and takes forever to leaf out fully and then to start to grow. It starts at the bottom and works it’s way up and it may not have leaves on it till June. That’s late for here. But it’s all worth it to watch it develop its central leader amidst the number of tops it’s put on. It’s still tying to do that and I’ll let it do its thing as I don’t think it’s safe to prune it as some people do. I don’t  believe in topping trees as a rule and that feels too much like that to me so I let it determine its course of growth. I think it knows best how to grow itself into a fine specimen, just like People do…..

I’m just so enamored of it I want the world to know so I gave it its own post. I’ll be doing more of that with some of my favorite plants as time goes on tho as I say several are on the Faves page in the website. I have too many favorites to really choose only a few to highlight but I tried my best. I might mention that in addition to this one I also have a Metasequoia glyptostroboides “Miss Grace” a cultivar of the  Dawn Redwood, another deciduous conifer. The other one is the Larch that occurs in places in the high western mountains in the US, in Asia and in Europe. Different species but the same genus, Larix. They’re stunning to see here in Washington where I live and I love driving across the passes in the fall to see them in their bright yellow glory against the darker evergreens. Unfortunately this Taxiodium turns a drab brown when it turns colors and isn’t too exciting but I still love it. The Dawn Redwood turns a deep orange and I have a picture of it on the Faves page in color.

If you have a favorite plant that keeps its leaves a long time please do let me know about it. I love things that defy the conventional wisdom of the fall and outlive their usual appointed time to die on us. It gives us a lingering sense of how the garden looked like in its hey days and that’s a nice thing for the plants to do for us. They help us remember before it all goes away for the winter and all we see are bare stems. That’s when the real persistence of greenery comes out with the true evergreen confers and I have a bunch of them. The may be mostly dwarf plants but they still give the feel of a small forest on this small lot and in this little garden. It doesn’t take much for me to be able to imagine what the parent tree must look like in its glory and I do have a couple of full sized conifers that are gonna get big so I’ll have them to look at in the depths of winter. And the shrubs too of course. And that’s enough for now.

Staying green,

Steve

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