Plant Hardiness Zones 4-9
|Medium to Wet|
|Taxodium distichum ‘Cascade Falls’|
Trees and shrubs come in many shapes and sizes; there is a world of color, shape and scent to choose from, yet there is very little that matches up to the spectacular standard set by the bald cypress Cascade Falls. It may not bear large showy flowers or even tiny delicate star-like ones; in fact it sports such small, unobtrusive flowers and fruits that you will only be aware they are there thanks to the large number of butterflies and bees that flocks to them. What it does do is provide a masterclass in outstanding foliage, texture and shape in a way that few other plants can match. Gardeners and plant lovers, especially collectors, are always looking out for that unique example that will set their green spaces apart. Specimen pieces that wow the crowd or draw repeated interested glances from envious neighbors are always appealing and we are not sure it gets much better than the Cascade Falls. This is a plant that is so exceptional that, before it became commercially available in 2001, examples of it were changing hand for almost $400!
There are few conifers that deviate from the accepted norm of growing upwards and resembling a Christmas tree, and of those few only two do not have to be trained in order to achieve their cascading nature; this one is the most highly regarded example. By their very nature, conifers want to grow upwards. If you were to find one of your standard conifers had collapsed, it would not creep along the ground as it continued growing but would send out new bracts pointing upwards, as that is where it wants to go and that will be the shape of the main body. This is where ‘cascade falls’ is different. It grows outwards, as a branch would do; if you choose not to stake this plant then you would find it creates a beautiful undulating carpet of delicate arms, each stem encircled with twisting green spines. The most dramatic effect is that of staking, however, where the plant is able to tumble to the ground in the manner of a verdant-haired Rapunzel leaning from the window of her tower. Bold and striking, this deciduous tree deserves to be positioned in a way that its beauty is not overshadowed or obscured by other more showy plants.
Although this is a naturally occurring tree in its own environment – in fact it is considered to have prehistoric roots – in order for it to grace gardens across the planet it is generally grafted on to a standard bald cypress (Taxodium disichum) so it may be set at the desired height. If this is not the case then the plant will creep as groundcover unless some other staking system is utilized. Although the bald cypress can grow to 125 feet tall the Cascade Falls cultivar will reach around 20 feet at full maturity, though at about 15 years old you would expect it to be around 12 feet.
So it is difficult to grow? Not especially; it is very adaptable and can grow happily in waterlogged, well drained or even dry soils. It does require full sun so a position should be chosen that allows it a full unobstructed minimum of 6 hours sunlight a day, preferably in acidic soil. When using a stake to give you the height you desire it is important not to use nylon or string to secure the tree to the stake, as these could cut and damage the plant; instead use cotton webbing or jute to protect it, then tie to the post using a natural rope in order to minimize and hopefully completely avoid bruising and cutting. These bindings will need changing annually.
There is no doubt that when it comes to finding that outstanding piece for your garden there is a lot of choice available to you, and we are very pleased to hold some outstanding examples of things to whet your appetite. But does it really get any better than the bald cypress Cascade Falls? We are not sure it does. It may not have huge great blooms or brightly colored fruits, but it more than makes up for all of those things with its highly textured bark, stunning autumnal colors and rich vibrant greens in spring and summer – colors which flow like water from a cliff face when supported, or like a freshwater spring when left to creep along the ground. There really is very little else like this and it fully deserves the furor that surrounded it when it first appeared on the market.