Debonair Pond CypressTaxodium distichum var. imbricarium 'Morris'
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Taxodium distichum var. imbricarium 'Morris'
Outdoor Growing zone
The Debonair Pond Cypress is a selected form of a native tree of southern rivers and swamps, that is hardy in the north and grows in all conditions. It grows more than a foot a year into a pyramidal tree that can reach 40 feet tall and 20 feet wide. The finely textured green foliage turns striking shades of copper, bronze and orange in fall on this deciduous conifer. Grow it as a lawn specimen, beside streams and ponds, in urban gardens and edging woodlands. This rare and unique tree is almost never offered to gardeners.
The Debonair Pond Cypress is hardy even in zone 4, and it should be planted in full sun in all kinds of soils. It will grow in wet soil and even shallow water, but it also grows in drier soils, and even in urban conditions. It doesn’t have any significant pests or diseases and after some initial regular watering and some formative pruning this tree takes care of itself.
Few people realize that those amazing trees seen in the swamps of Florida are also great garden trees, able to grow well even in ordinary garden soils. Their great value, though, is in wet ground, and if you have soggy, low-lying areas, or river banks, then a superb choice for those locations is the Debonair Pond Cypress. Growing at least a foot a year, it will soon become a beautiful pyramidal specimen, with needles leaves that turn beautiful bronzy shades in fall, before dropping to reveal the detailed outline of its branches. That’s right – this is that rare thing, a deciduous conifer related to pines and spruce. We might associate these trees with the South, and hot climates, but they grow well in cooler zones, and this one has survived the cold winters typical of zone 4, and it has great resistance to snow and ice breakage. For a striking and special specimen tree in your garden, be carefree and devil-may-care, and grow a Debonair. It’s an outstanding tree that should be widely grown everywhere.
The Debonair Pond Cypress is a deciduous tree with an upright, pyramidal form that grows a foot or more each year to reach 12 feet within 10 years, and be around 6 feet wide. It will continue to grow throughout it’s life, with a final height of 40 feet or even more, and a width approaching 20 feet. It has an attractive open, feathery form with upright branches. The bark is reddish-brown to gray-brown, fibrous and peeling in strips. Even relatively young trees develop broad buttresses at ground level, especially when growing in wet ground. Hard woody knobs may grow into the air off the roots, called ‘cypress knees’. These are mostly formed when growing in wet ground. The branches are covered in slender needle leaves about ¾ of an inch long, spiraling around the stems in two flattened rows. These are bright yellow-green when new in spring, turning attractive sage-green in summer, and then making an outstanding fall display of bronze and russet-orange to pumpkin in fall. Small cones may develop on older trees, up to 1½ inches wide, green-purple in summer turning brown by fall.
For wet parts of any garden, and even in shallow water, this is an outstanding tree to grow. However it also grows well in ordinary garden soil, and it is a unique and striking specimen that will turn heads. Plant it on a lawn, or in a corner of your yard. If you have a large lawn area you can really make it beautiful with a selection of unique specimen trees – like this one. Since this tree will grow large relatively soon, take its final size into consideration when choosing a planting spot. Don’t plant beneath overhead wires and allow 10 feet distance from buildings, walls, fences and property lines, and don’t plant too close to existing trees.
The Debonair Pond Cypress is certainly a very hardy form of this tree, able to grow even in zone 4. It also grows all the way into zone 10, in a wide range of climates, and can be grown almost anywhere in the country.
Plant in full sun for the best growth and best fall colors, but young trees will tolerate some partial shade. Although native to swamps, the Debonair Pond Cypress is reliable in all garden soils, including drier soils and urban soils. Once well established it is moderately drought resistant, and one benefit of growing it in drier conditions is that it doesn’t develop many ‘cypress knees’ to interfere with mowing a lawn.
Apart from a little formative pruning to keep a central leader, no particular care is needed. Water young plants frequently, but established trees can be left to grow by themselves. Serious pests or diseases are normally not seen, and it isn’t bothered by deer.
The bald cypress, Taxodium distichum, is a tree native to North America, growing throughout Florida, north to Virginia and west into Texas. It is usually found in swamps. In clearer water and areas free of silt deposits a form with slightly different leaves is found, called variety imbricarium. Some botanists consider it a different species, calling it Taxodium ascendens. This variety is called the pond cypress to distinguish it from the bald cypress. In the mid-1960s Earl Cully, a tree enthusiast who owned Heritage Trees Inc. in Jacksonville Illinois, was given a piece of an unusual pond cypress growing at the Morris Arboretum, Philadelphia. He grafted it onto a seedling and grew it for 27 years, assessing it for it’s vigor, cold-hardiness and appearance. In 2003 he registered the trademark name Debonair™ for his tree. In 2005 he submitted a patent for the name ‘Morris’, but while that remains the correct botanical name for it, the patent seems never to have been granted.
It is extraordinary that pond cypress isn’t better known, and that the Debonair Pond Cypress isn’t in every garden. You can correct that mistake and plant one, but order now, because limited supply is part of the reason it is so scarce in gardens – do not miss out while we still have plants available.