Columnar Blue Atlas CedarCedrus atlantica 'Glauca Fastigiata'
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Cedrus atlantica 'Glauca Fastigiata'
Outdoor Growing zone
The Columnar Blue Atlas Cedar is a tall, narrow evergreen tree with rich silver-blue needles. It has a central vertical trunk and side branches that grow upwards, instead of sweeping down, as in the ordinary Atlas cedar. It will reach 15 feet tall and be just 6 feet wide within 10 years, ultimately passing 40 feet, and still be only 25 feet wide. It is perfect for a majestic and grand specimen tree in limited spaces, and for creating bold avenues along driveways. It also makes a striking accent tree in large borders of shrubs and smaller trees.
The Columnar Blue Atlas Cedar should be grown in full sun, on well-drained soil. Once established it is very drought tolerant, and it thrives in warmer parts of the country, including both hot and humid and hot and dry regions. It grows 12 to 15 inches a year, soon becoming a substantial tree with no effort, and it normally never suffers from pests or diseases. It can be maintained at the maximum narrowness by some simple controlled pruning as it develops.
The name ‘cedar’ is given casually to a lot of evergreen trees, but the true Cedar trees are striking large trees with broad, sweeping branches and tight foliage, often with wonderful silver-blue coloring. Ancient examples are seen on the grounds of mansions, and in parks, but while these are beautiful specimen trees, the extensive spread of the horizontal branches means they need a lot of room. Sadly, for many of us, our gardens simply don’t have the space. This is exactly why the Columnar Blue Atlas Cedar is such a desirable and useful tree. It has all the beauty of the Cedar’s rich blue foliage, and the unique ‘look’ of the Cedar, but the branches grow upwards, not outwards, so it occupies much less room. This brings it within the reach of many, so this tree of kings and the wealthy is now a tree for everyone.
The Columnar Blue Atlas Cedar is an upright evergreen tree, with one main vertical trunk. The main side branches rise upwards at about 60 degrees to the horizontal, while smaller branches are horizontal or slightly descending. The evergreen foliage is made up of short needles, which are a rich, smokey, silver-blue. The needles are a little less than one inch long, and they are clustered along the stems in groups of about 25 needles. New stems have needles evenly placed all along them, but as the branches mature needle clusters develop along the sides of the stems. In late summer and fall you will see cones developing, once your tree is older. These are like small pine cones, 2 to 3 inches long, but pointing upwards on the branches. The bark of this tree is very attractive, with a rugged look. It is deep gray-brown, and split into long fissures, giving older trees lots of character. Grow this tree as a specimen on a lawn, or as an accent plant in a bed of large shrubs and small trees. Plant a row along a driveway for a magnificent entrance. Plants in rows should be spaced 20 to 35 feet apart, to avoid them developing a hedge-like effect.
Once established, the Columnar Blue Atlas Cedar is fast-growing, adding 12 to 15 inches of new growth each year. Within 10 years your young tree will be a substantial specimen, reaching perhaps 15 feet tall, but being only 6 feet wide. Its growth will continue, so that in time it will be a noble specimen 40 feet or more in height, but just 25 feet wide. This compares to a normal Atlas Cedar, which would be 35 to 40 feet wide at that height. This critical difference makes this tree very superior as a specimen in an ordinary garden. When choosing a planting spot, be sure to allow for this final size. Don’t plant within 15 feet of buildings, property boundaries, or other potential obstructions, and don’t plant beneath overhead wires. A short trunk will develop at the base, and young trees can be pruned up for more clearance if necessary. You can expect this tree to live hundreds of years, so give it room.
The Columnar Blue Atlas Cedar is a tough and reliable tree, that thrives in warmer zones, from 6 to 9, and that thrives in hot climates, both dry or humid ones. Plant it in full sun, in deep, well-drained soils. Although it prefers slightly acidic soils, it is easy to grow and thrives in most situations, except for wet areas. Once established it is very drought resistant, and it normally has no pests or diseases. Pruning is not needed, but some selective pruning will keep the tree at its narrowest. To maintain the narrowest possible profile, maintain just one single central trunk for as long as possible. This can easily be done by reducing the height of one branch if you see two or more stems of equal height growing upwards at the top of the tree in a ‘double leader’. In addition, you can remove some side branches which are growing outwards too much, and this will also emphasize the narrow form of this tree.
The Columnar Blue Atlas Cedar is a special form of the Atlas Cedar, Cedrus atlantica, one of the three species of ‘true’ cedars, it is very similar, to the famous Cedar of Lebanon, Cedrus libani. It grows wild in vast forests in the Atlas Mountains, which stretch through Morocco and into Algeria. Trees there can be well over 100 feet tall, and similar large specimens are seen in gardens from the 19th century. The needle color of wild trees is variable, and those with stronger blue coloring are called the Glauca Group. There have been multiple collections and introductions of trees with good blue coloring, from both natural forests and among nursery seedlings.
The form called ‘Glauca Fastigiata’ probably descended through seedlings from the original fastigiate Atlas cedar, which was found in France around 1890. Seedlings from that tree would have been variable, and those with the bluest needles, but still with an erect habit, became the Columnar Blue Atlas Cedar. It could also be a fastigiate selection from among seedlings of blue forms – we simply don’t know exactly where it came from. We do know that our trees are grown from grafted stem pieces from the best trees available, and they are not variable seedlings. This tree is immensely desirable as a major garden specimen, and the demand is always high. Order now – they will all be gone very soon.