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Chamaecyparis lawsoniana (A. Murr.) Parl.

Lawson Cypress

Modern name

Chamaecyparis lawsoniana (A.Murray bis) Parl.


Cupressus lawsoniana A. Murr.

A tree frequently 200 ft high in a wild state, the trunk 7 ft or more in diameter above the buttressed base; bark reddish brown. As seen in cultivation it is a slenderly to broadly pyramidal tree, densely furnished to the ground with frond­like branches. The leaf-bearing branchlets are borne in two horizontally spreading ranks, usually more or less pendulous at the ends, the final subdivisions flattened, 116 to 112 in. wide. Leaves minute, scale-like, in four rows; the lateral leaves considerably the longer, those underneath usually glandular; they have minute, abrupt points. The foliage is extremely variable in shade, from deep green to a more or less glaucous green. Cones globose, glaucous (finally brown), 13 in. diameter; scales eight. Bot. Mag., t. 5581.

Native of western N. America in Oregon and California; introduced in 1854 to Lawson’s nursery at Edinburgh. It is now the commonest and most valued of all cypresses, perhaps of all conifers, in gardens. It is very hardy, but likes a good loamy soil and a moist climate. In poor soils it is much benefited by artificial watering during dry periods, also by occasional supplies of manure water. In North America it yields a very valuable timber and is grown, though on a very small scale, as a forestry tree in this country.

The following are some of the outstanding specimens recorded recently to mention only those of 90 ft or more: Endsleigh, Devon, 119 × 912 ft (1963); Rhinefield Drive, Hants, 103 × 1234 ft and 101 × 812 ft (1962); Inveraray, Argyll, 102 × 1134 and 98 × 12 ft (1954-6); Penjerrick, Cornwall, 100 × 11 ft (1965); Blair Atholl, Perths., 99 × 914 ft (1955); Killerton, Devon, 92 × 934 ft (1960).

No conifer has produced so much variety in foliage and habit under cultivation. In almost any batch of seedlings a number of more or less differing forms may be observed. Some extraordinarily different varieties have been raised, so different that unless their origin were known they would be regarded as distinct species. These are best raised from cuttings which, taken in late summer, root readily – or they are easily grafted on seedlings. Such plants make nice trees, but have a tendency to produce several leads, at least in isolated positions. This, however, in the opinion of many may not detract from their beauty, and in any case may be obviated by cutting off the rival leaders as soon as noticed. Many of the named varieties are not worthy of distinction, and some with age have become indistinguishable from the type. The following are some of the most noteworthy:

cv. ‘Allumii’. – Spire-like in habit; leaves very glaucous. There is a fine specimen at Wakehurst Place, Sussex, measuring 62 × 412 ft.

cv. ‘Aurea’. – Young shoots yellow the first summer, gradually becoming green. Of compact, bushy habit, becoming as broad as high. Raised by Waterer’s nursery, Bagshot, Surrey, and given a F.C.C. in 1870.

cv. ‘Columnaris’. – Narrow columnar habit; branchlet stems erect, exposing the glaucous undersides of the leaves. Raised by Spek’s nursery, Boskoop, Holland, and given the Award of Garden Merit in 1961. A tree presented by the raiser to the R.H.S. Garden, Wisley, planted in 1947, is now 17 ft high and 3 ft across at its widest (1967).

cv. ‘Elegantissima’. – Branchlets and foliage yellowish green. Raised by Barron’s nursery near Derby around 1875 and still one of the best of its kind.

cv. ‘Ellwoodii’. – Foliage juvenile, bluish green, as in ‘Fletcheri’; of narrow, spire-like habit. Raised at Swanmore Park, Bishop’s Waltham, where it originated as a seedling. It is of denser, more ascending habit than ‘Fletcheri’ and useful where a small tree is needed for vertical effect. It attains a height of 12 ft or more.

cv. ‘Erecta Viridis’. – Of erect, columnar habit, green; perhaps the most striking columnar evergreen available for cultivation in the open air, but best in a young state, as it is apt to become naked or shabby at the base. Raised in the Knap Hill nursery in 1855.

cv. ‘Filiformis’. – In some respects this is the most striking and elegant, as well as the most distinct, of Lawson cypresses. It has a medium rate of growth, the branching is spiral (not two-ranked), and the terminal branchlets hang vertically, often 1 to 2 ft long, scarcely branched, cord-like, very dark green. Extremely effective as an isolated specimen.

cv. ‘Fletcheri’. – A form with juvenile leaves recalling those of a juniper or one of the “retinosporas”, of a greyish, glaucous hue; habit conical, but broader and bushier than in ‘Ellwoodii’. It arose as a branch sport in the Ottershaw nursery, Chertsey, and was put into commerce by Fletcher Bros., who showed it at Chelsea in 1913, when it received a First Class Certificate. Although slow-growing, it will attain in time a height of 35 ft or more.

cv. ‘Forsteckensis’. – A dense, globular bush with moss-like growths. Messrs Hillier have a plant at Winchester which is about thirty years old and is 3 ft high and 4 ft across.

cv. ‘Fraseri’. – Similar to ‘Allumii’, but with darker foliage and of more slender habit.

cv. ‘Gracilis’. – A free, elegant form, the sprays pendulous, points of leaves usually spreading. Raised at the Knap Hill nursery before 1869. ‘Gracilis Pendula’ is more weeping.

cv. ‘Green Hedger’. – A denser form with bright green foliage raised by Messrs Jackman of Woking and very suitable for hedging.

cv. ‘Hillieri’. – A variety of great elegance with yellow young foliage, becoming yellowish green later in the season and finally soft green; branchlets slender, leaves slightly spreading. Habit dense, columnar.

cv. ‘Intertexta’. – Another very striking and elegant form; the branches decurved rather than turned up at the ends; branchlets weeping, the ultimate divisions stout and rather far apart. It is the stoutness and remoteness of the ultimate ramifications that give this variety its unique appearance. Of glaucous hue and vigorous growth. According to a letter to Kew from Lawson’s of Edinburgh, it was raised in their nursery about 1869.

cv. ‘Kilmacurragh’. – Leaves rich green; habit columnar, resembling that of the Italian cypress. It bears the name of the once-famous Irish garden where it originated. The parent tree perhaps no longer exists but it was propagated before the garden fell into decay and is now well established in cultivation.

cv. ‘Lanei’. – Habit narrowly columnar; branches spreading; sprays golden above, greenish yellow beneath. Yellower than ‘Lutea’, with the sprays more densely arranged. Raised by Lane’s nurseries, Berkhamsted, about 1938.

cv. ‘Lutea’. – One of the yellowest of all the forms, the young growths being pale yellow changing to golden, and remaining so the first winter; habit stiff and closely pendulous. Rollison’s nursery, Tooting, before 1873.

cv. ‘Minima Aurea’. – A miniature form of conical habit, with golden foliage; ultimate height about 3 ft. Raised by Messrs Rogers of Chandlers Ford, Hants. ‘Aurea Densa’, raised by the same firm, is very similar (see H. J. Welch, Dwarf Conifers, pp. 116-17).

cv. ‘Nana’. – A dwarf, dense bush developing with age a conical form. Put into commerce by Dauvesse of Orleansi n 1861. ‘Minima’ is similar, but has a more rounded top; its branchlets tend to be arranged edgewise, as in Thuja orientalis.

cv. ‘Nidiformis’. – This variety arose in Rovelli’s nursery, Pallanza, Lake Maggiore, and is thought by some authorities to be a hybrid between Lawson’s cypress and C. nootkatensis (C. × nidifera Beissn.). It makes a low bush, with branches tending to the horizontal and drooping branchlets. ‘Tam- ariscifolia’ is very similar.

cv. ‘Pembury Blue’. – Leaves pale blue-grey in their first season, later green; of broadly conical habit. No other glaucous-leaved form of Lawson cypress has leaves of such a delicate shade. It was raised by Baggesen’s nurseries, Pembury, Kent, and first distributed by Messrs Jackman.

cv. ‘Pendula’. – Branches horizontal but with the spray pendulous from underneath the branch, as in C. nootkatensis ‘Pendula’. In ‘Pendula Vera’, distributed by Hesse’s nurseries around 1890, the branches as well as the branchlets are pendulous.

cv. ‘Pottenii’. – A medium-sized conical tree with dense, greyish-green foliage, partly juvenile. There is an example 39 ft high in the National Pinetum, Bedgebury.

cv. ‘Pygmaea Argentea’. – A very slow-growing conifer of dense, rounded to conical habit; terminal branches white, the whole bush appearing white when the young growths are developing.

cv. ‘Silver Queen’. – Young foliage silvery white. There is a specimen at Kew measuring 67 × 312 ft (1965).

cv. ‘Stewartii’. – Shoots rich yellow when young, changing to green. There is a specimen at Longleat, Wilts., measuring 58 × 6 ft (1963).

cv. ‘Triomf van Boskoop’. – Foliage steely blue; branches widely spaced. This well-known variety was raised at Boskoop around 1890. At Bicton, Devon, there is a specimen of 78 × 614 ft (1961).

cv. ‘Westermannii’. – Habit sturdy, pyramidal; ultimate branchlets pale yellow. Of Dutch origin, c. 1880.

cv. ‘Wisselii’. – A curious, rather than beautiful form, of columnar habit, very dark and glaucous; the branchlets very short, and produced in crowded tufts. The plant is often too thinly furnished to be pleasing. Raised in Holland, 1888. At Nymans in Sussex there is a specimen planted in 1900, measuring 66 × 714 ft (1966), and another at Bicton, Devon, 79 × 11 ft (1967). There are two good specimens in the R.H.S. Garden, Wisley, about 50 ft high.

From the Supplement (Vol. V)

specimens: Westonbirt, Glos., Clay Island, 95 × 11 ft (1977); Rhinefield Drive, New Forest, 121 × 14 ft (1983); Killerton, Devon, 111 × 10 ft (1980); Endsleigh, Devon, 133 × 1014 ft (1977); Cragside, Northumb., 120 × 1014 ft (1984); Doune House, Perths., 130 × 1214 ft (1980); Murthly Castle, Perths., West Terrace, 108 × 1312 ft (1983); Bonskeid, Perths., 95 × 1212 ft (1985); Aldoune Castle, Inv., 88 × 1312 ft (1980); Balmacaan, Inv., 124 × 1234 ft (1980); Ardross Castle, Ross, pl. 1881, 75 × 1214 ft (1981); Caledon, Co. Tyrone, 105 × 1212 ft (1985); Gosford Castle, Co. Armagh, 92 × 1312 ft (1976); Powerscourt, Co. Wicklow, Eire, 88 × 1512 ft (1985).

The number of named cultivars of Lawson cypress is vast, and hardly a year passes without new ones coming into commerce. The following is an attempt to bring up to date the account on pages 593-5. It includes most of the novelties (up to 1984), as well as a few older ones excluded from lack of space.

† cv. ‘Albospica’. – Of moderate size and narrow habit; foliage tipped creamy white. Raised by Young of Milford towards the end of the last century.

cv. ‘Alumii’. – Graham Thomas has remarked that in his experience this cultivar becomes coarse and untidy after 20 ft or so is reached, and may even become wider above than below. It has attained 98 × 8 ft at Glamis Castle, Angus (1981) and 77 × 734 ft at Cowdray Park, Sussex (1982).

There is now a sport of ‘Alumii’ named ‘Alumigold’, in which the young sprays are golden. Raised in Holland.

cv. ‘Aurea’. – This is now rare. The common golden Lawson cypress of older gardens is ‘Lutea’.

† cv. ‘Aurea Densa’. See under ‘Minima Aurea’.

† cv. ‘Blue Jacket’ (‘Milford Blue Jacket’). – Sprays bluish green, silvery beneath. Habit broadly conical. Raised at Young’s Nursery, Milford, some years before 1892. There is an example in the R.H.S. Garden at Wisley measuring 40 × 212 ft (1983).

cv. ‘Ellwoodii’. – With age this cultivar develops adult foliage, and if such branchlets are used for propagation the resulting plants make narrow columns of rapid growth, almost devoid of the typical foliage of ‘Ellwoodii’, but excellent in their own right.

‘Ellwooodii’ is a sportive clone and its branch mutations have given rise to several new cultivars. In ‘Ellwood’s Gold’ the young growths are golden, while in ‘Silver Threads’, a sport from this, the gold is flecked with cream. In ‘Ellwood’s White’ the foliage is variegated with white.

Chilworth Silver’ was a sport from one of the first propagations of ‘Ellwoodii’; it has bright silvery blue foliage and is perhaps the best of the group. In the same style are ‘Bleu Nantais’, of French origin, and ‘Blue Surprise’ from Holland which, despite its similarity to ‘Ellwoodii’, was raised from seed.

cv. ‘Erecta Viridis’. This, the earliest cultivar of Lawson cypress to be put into commerce, is near or slightly over 100 ft in a few collections. Some examples are: Scotney Castle, Kent, 97 × 1514 ft dividing (1984); Bodnant, Gwyn., 108 × 1312 ft (1984); The Gliffaes Hotel, Powys, 92 × 1612 ft at 3 ft (1984).

There are two clones similar to ‘Erecta Viridis’, but more stiffly branched and hence less subject to snow damage. These are ‘Green Pillar’ and ‘Green Spire’. Also of this type is the new ‘Green Wall’ (1976), raised in France.

† cv. ‘Filifera’. – Confused with ‘Filiformis’, this is of narrow habit, with sparse, long and slender branches, the ultimate ramifications few. See A. F. Mitchell, Conif. Brit. Isles (1972), fig. 52. There are examples in the R.H.S. Garden (Pinetum) at Wisley and in the National Pinetum, Bedgebury, Kent.

cv. ‘Filiformis’. – The example at Bicton, Devon, is portrayed in G. Krüssmann, Handb. Nadelgehölze, plates 29 and 31 (1971); for a drawing of a typical branchlet see A. F. Mitchell, op. cit. supr., fig. 53. It has also been called ‘Filifera’, but that name belongs properly to the cultivar added above. An example at Nymans, Sussex, measures 82 × 534 ft (1985).

cv. ‘Fletcheri’. – Having numerous somewhat flexible stems from the base, this can be spreadeagled by heavy snow even when 30 ft high. A corset of netting prevents this, and is soon concealed by the new growths. ‘Yellow Transparent’ is a sport of ‘Fletcheri’, raised in Holland, with yellowish, translucent foliage, bronzing in winter.

† cv. ‘Golden King’. – A seedling of ‘Triomf van Boskoop’, vigorous but of rather open and informal habit; foliage golden in summer, bronzy in winter. Raised in Holland.

† cv. ‘Golden Wonder’. – Similar to ‘Lanei’ in habit, with foliage of a deeper yellow. Raised from seed in Holland and put into commerce by Messrs Spek of Boskoop in 1963.

† cv. ‘Grayswood Pillar’. – Foliage grey. Habit narrowly columnar, with ascending branches. Fast-growing. Raised at Grayswood Hill, Haslemere, as a sport from ‘Blue Jacket’ (for which see this supplement), shortly before 1952.

† cv. ‘Green Hedger’. – This is one of the many conifers that are far more suitable for garden hedges than the now ubiquitous Leyland cypress.

cv. ‘Hillieri’. – It should have been added that the foliage on the sunnier side of the plant remains golden throughout the winter. All golden conifers need a sunny position and should be sited so that the side facing south can be seen from the main view point. Although raised before 1920, ‘Hillieri’ seems to be little known, but remains one of the best of the golden Lawsons. The sprays are unusually light and delicate, densely arranged. It gains about 1 ft in height a year, and will be about 6 ft wide at the base after 20 years.

cv. ‘Lutea’. – Most of the tall golden Lawson cypresses in older gardens are of this variety. The description on page 595 is badly phrased: it is the sprays of foliage that are pendulous, not the tree, which is columnar.

cv. ‘Minima Aurea’. – This cultivar and ‘Aurea Densa’ are very similar when young, and both are excellent dwarf golden conifers. Humphrey Welch gives as the difference that ‘Aurea Densa’ makes a blunt cone and has suffer foliage than ‘Minima Aurea’, which also tends to be more ovoid in shape, but neither grows much taller than 3 ft. He makes the interesting point that ‘Lutea Nana’, the third member of the group, is quite hardy at the Inschriach Nurseries at Aviemore in the Scottish Highlands, where the other two are frequently damaged by frost; it differs from them in being more vigorous, with paler coloured foliage.

† cv. ‘Moerheimii’. – A golden cultivar attaining 40 ft or so, raised in Holland. It is little known in this country, but is valued in the colder parts of Europe for its hardiness.

† cv. ‘Naberi’. – Young growths sulphur-yellow, becoming bluish white in winter. Of fairly narrow, rather open habit, slow growing.

cv. ‘Nana’. – This cultivar is the ‘type’ of a group of dwarf Lawson cypresses. ‘Nana’ itself, which is rare, is horizontally branched from a single stem and forms in time a broad cone, while ‘Minima’ has many ascending stems, a symmetrical roundish outline and broad sprays of foliage; better known is the similar ‘Minima Glauca’, with glaucous foliage. ‘Gimbornii’ resembles ‘Minima Glauca’ in colouring, but the shape is more ovoid and the tips of the sprays are plum-purple when young. The very distinct ‘Forsteckensis’, which also belongs to this group, is mentioned on page 594.

There are, too, a number of diminutive clones in this group, such as ‘Gnome’, raised at Warnham Court, Horsham, by the head gardener W. Hart, with foliage much as in ‘Forsteckensis’, but slower growing; ‘Green Globe’, a very compact miniature with dark green foliage, raised from seed in New Zealand; ‘Pygmy’, put into commerce by Messrs Jackman, is similar to ‘Minima’ but smaller; and ‘Pixie’, a recent introduction from Holland, similar to ‘Minima Glauca’ but with finer foliage.

cv. ‘Nidiformis’. – The entry under this heading, which appears only in the first printing, should be deleted. See further under C. lawsoniana ‘Tamariscifolia’ and C. nootkatensis ‘Nidifera’ in this supplement.

† cv. ‘Parsonsii’. – A dome-shaped bush, with closely set horizontal branches and drooping sprays, put into commerce by Messrs Hillier.

cv. ‘Pottenii’. – Like ‘Fletcheri’, this can be opened up by heavy snow, and should be given a position sheltered from cold, drying winds, which can damage its foliage. It has given rise to a golden-leaved sport, slower in growth, which bears the name ‘Golden Pot’.

cv. ‘Pygmaea Argentea’. – This is also known as ‘Backhouse Silver’. Similar to it in colouring, but of conical form, is the old ‘Nana Albospica’. Both these display their white colouring only when growing strongly.

† cv. ‘Rijnhof’. – Of procumbent habit, with regularly overlapping branches. Foliage light green. Raised from seed in Holland, where it received an Award of Merit in the Boskoop trials in 1979. It is already in commerce here.

cv. ‘Silver Queen’. - specimens: Kew, 77 × 312 ft (1974); National Pinetum, Bedgebury, Kent, pl. 1925, 64 × 5 ft (1977); R.H.S. Garden, Wisley, Surrey, 50 × 5 ft (1981); Westonbirt, Glos., Morley Drive, pl. 1935, 56 × 312 ft and, Broad Drive, pl. 1931, 54 × 412 ft (1979).

‘Silver Queen’ is an old cultivar, raised in Britain before 1883. It is inferior to ‘Elegantissima’ (of Hillier, not Barron; see this supplement, above).

† cv. ‘Spek’ (‘Glauca Spek’). – Foliage glaucous, almost as blue as in ‘Pembury Blue’ but lacking the silvery dusting. Of conical form, vigorous and stoutly branched. Raised by Jan Spek of Boskoop.

† cv. ‘Stardust’. – Broadly pyramidal, strong growing. Foliage sulphur-yellow. A selected seedling, raised in Holland.

cv. ‘Stewartii’. - specimens: Leonardslee, Sussex, 66 × 4 ft (1977); National Pinetum, Bedgebury, Kent. pl. 1925, 52 × 414 ft (1977); Eastnor Castle, by Moat, 58 × 434 ft (1977); Bicton, Devon, 52 ft high (1972); Brahan, E. Ross, pl. 1901, 46 × 534 ft (1982); Dochfour, Inv., 75 × 414 ft (1982).

Although apparently not described until 1920, ‘Stewartii’ is much older than that and has been in cultivation since the 1890s at least. The nursery of Messrs Stewart at Ferndown, Dorset, was originally a branch of the Scottish firm John Stewart and Sons, founded in 1809, and was set up in the 1880s. In colour, ‘Stewartii’ is inferior to more recent golden Lawson cypresses, but it makes a more elegant and broader tree than any of these and is by no means superseded. In young plants the foliage sprays are fern-like and semi-erect.

cv. ‘Tamariscifolia’. – A flat-topped, eventually umbrella-shaped bush, without a central leader and with irregular ascending or spreading main stems. Foliage sea-green. It is slow-growing but attains in time a height of 10 ft or even more. Raised at Smith’s Darley Dale nursery. The plant grown under the name ‘Nidiformis’ is similar (for the differences see H.J. Welch, Dwarf Conifers (1966), pp. 126-7). This is of unknown origin, and has been wrongly identified with ‘Nidifera’, a cultivar of C. nootkatensis. (This entry appears in the reprints of Volume I).

cv. ‘Triomf van Boskoop’. - specimens: Nymans, Sussex, 98 × 814 ft (1985); Wakehurst Place, Sussex, 70 × 612 ft (1979); Dyffryn Gardens, near Cardiff, 55 × 512 ft (1979); Fairburn, Ross, 85 × 834 ft (1982); Brahan, E. Ross, 72 × 9 ft (1982); Achnagarry, Inv., 88 × 834 ft (1982); Dochfour, Inv., 74 × 812 ft (1982).

‘Triomf van Boskoop’ is only suitable for large-scale plantings. It makes a fine, vigorous specimen, but is too coarse and open in habit to be suitable for smaller gardens.

cv. ‘Westermannii’. – It should have been added that the branchlets of this cultivar droop at the tips. It makes an interesting small specimen, attaining 20 ft or so in height.

† cv. ‘Winston Churchill’. – One of the best of the many golden forms of Lawson cypress, holding its colour well and making a pyramidal, fairly densely branched tree. It was raised at Hogger’s Nursery, East Grinstead, and put into commerce shortly after the second world war.

cv. ‘Wisselii’. - specimens: Tongs Wood, Kent, 66 × 8 ft (1984); Nymans, Sussex, 80 × 812 ft (1979); Sheffield Park, Sussex, in Conifer Wood, 79 × 8 ft (1982); Lydhurst, Sussex, 77 × 814 ft (1980); The High Beeches, Handcross, Sussex, pl. 1931, 66 × 614 ft (1982); Deer Wood, Shottermill, Surrey, 66 × 814 ft (1981); Blackmoor, Hants, 69 × 734 ft (1984); Stourhead, Wilts., pl. 1919, 69 × 714 ft (1984); Wayford Manor, Som., 60 × 834 ft (1981); Killerton, Devon, 65 × 612 ft (1980); Hergest Croft, Heref., pl. 1909, 72 × 814 ft (1985); Castlewellan, Co. Down, 66 × 912 ft (1982); Mount Usher, Co. Wicklow, Eire, 70 × 1012 ft (1975); Avondale House, Co. Wicklow, 70 × 1012 ft and 74 × 1134 ft (1980).

† cv. ‘Witzeliana’. – Similar to ‘Erecta Viridis’ in leaf-colour and branching, but very slender and of moderate growth, to about 20 ft. Put into commerce by Späth in 1931.



Other species in the genus