Cupressus varieties for your garden

Cupressus plant
ARTICLE Patricia Moore

Designers today are able to choose from a number of different cypress varieties, for use as screens or windbreaks, or as striking specimen trees. They’re generally adaptable, growing well in different free-draining soils and tolerant of frost.

Introduced in the 1860s, Cupressus Macrocarpa was among the earliest of cypresses grown in New Zealand. Also known as Monterey Cypress - after the area of central California where it is a native – Macropcarpa was used for shelterbelts on rural land and also became a timber tree. Growing conditions here were so favourable, the trees became much larger than those in California.

a close picture of a Monterey cypress plant

Monterey Cypress

Pip McVicar, co-owner of Cedar Lodge Nurseries in New Plymouth (New Zealand’s only specialist conifer nursery), says their easy care and low-maintenance attributes make conifers a popular choice with landscapers. Their diversity is another plus; with foliage ranging from bright greens through to blue greys and rich gold’s. They blend with a wide range of design requirements. Their sometimes quirky forms and range of sizes is another reason Cupressus feature in so many landscape designs; with varieties from miniature buns, to mid-sized ornamentals and statuesque specimen trees widely available.

It’s important when choosing Cupressus ornamentals and hedge trees, to check on susceptibility to Cypress Canker. This is a major fungal disease of Cupressus varieties in New Zealand and around the world, that causes reduced growth and die-back. The good news is that there are a growing number of disease resistant varieties, which can be used as substitutes; providing the same shape, height and form.

Cupressus Sempervirens is also known as Mediterranean Cypress, Italian Cypress, Tuscan Cypress (all of which indicate its Mediterranean origins), Graveyard Cypress (the wood was used for coffins) and Pencil Pine. It’s a long-lived tree (a specimen in Iran is reportedly around 4,000 years old), that easily handles New Zealand’s cooler, wetter summers, and its regular column shape makes it a popular avenue tree. 

A close picture of a Mediterranean cypress plant

Mediterranean cypress

Cupressus Glabra Blue Ice is a quick-growing and compact cone-shaped cultivar, which reaches around 3.5m and features steely blue foliage and flaking reddish brown bark. It’s tolerant of dry conditions and should have regular light trimming. It is a variety that is recommended for screening or background planting. 

The conifer Juniperus Squamata ‘Meyerii’ is a brilliant blue when fully grown. It can be pruned to grow in various shapes and adapts to growing flat against a wall or in a more tree-like form. Regular trimming is needed to keep it looking tidy and encourage new growth.

A close picture of a Juniperus squamata plant

Juniperus Squamata

As the name suggests, Cupressus Gracilis is graceful and slender, forming a perfect column that tapers to a narrow point. It’s a variety that’s perfect in a more formal design and prefers full sun or a semi-shaded situation. 

With its golden-yellow foliage, Cupressus Swanes Gold introduces a dramatic burst of colour in a cypress that’s both low-maintenance and hardy. A narrow growing conifer that prefers free draining soil, it’s ideally suited to either formal gardens or containers. 

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*All information is believed to be true at time of publishing and is subject to change.

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