Powerful accent plants bring drama and beauty to any garden, and when it comes to accents, it’s hard to beat a narrow column of gold, with dense, tight foliage from top to bottom. Even harder to beat when it is also heat and drought resistant and needs no clipping to keep that narrow profile. For all these reasons you need the Golden Italian Cypress in your garden.
Imagine a column of dense foliage rising 10 feet into the air, but only 12 inches wide. The tight branches hide behind a wall of tiny leaves, so closely packed they look like coral. Now spray it with gold-leaf that shimmers in the sunlight. This is the Golden Italian Cypress, a unique form of the well-known Italian cypress. That plant dots the hills of Tuscany and is found as specimens and hedges in many gardens in warmer zones around the world. While that iconic plant is deep black-green, this golden form is richly gold from top to bottom, making a striking and colorful accent wherever you use it.
Growing Golden Italian Cypress Trees
The Golden Italian Cypress begs us to use it as a specimen – on a lawn or in a bed. Plant just one in a smaller space, or a cluster of three or five in a larger one. Use it informally to accentuate sweeps and curves around the garden, or in a more formal way to pair-up on either side of a walkway, entrance or gate. Place them between windows in the foundation planting around your home. Plant a row alongside a driveway, or beside a fence or boundary. This plant is too narrow and tight to clip into a hedge, but a row spaced 2 or 3 feet apart would be dramatic and effective in any garden. In containers too, this plant is perfect for a bold look, alone, or surrounded by tumbling foliage and flowers.
Plant the Golden Italian Cypress in full sun for maximum color and foliage density. It is easy to grow in any type of well-drained soil, but it does not like wet soil. Once established this tree is extremely drought resistant, and it’s an ideal choice for hot, dry locations. It thrives in all warmer zones, especially in places with long dry summers. If you live in zone 7 you can usually grow the Italian Cypress in sheltered spots. This form is a little more sensitive to winter-burn of the foliage, but in a very sheltered spot in zone 7 it should still succeed.
If your winter night-time temperatures usually fall no lower than 15 degrees Fahrenheit, this plant is for you. It has no significant pests or diseases and it is very easy to grow. It is naturally dense, so it doesn’t need clipping to keep that beautiful narrow look, but it can of course be clipped into a perfect column, or even into spirals and other topiary forms. These are especially effective for plants in containers.
History and Origins of the Golden Italian Cypress
The Golden Italian Cypress is a selected form of the Italian Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens). This tree originated in Lebanon and parts of the Middle East. It has been cultivated since Roman times in southern Europe, and its classic pencil form, dark and thin against the Mediterranean sky, is often seen in Italy. For many years it has been grown in parts of the USA as well, especially in southern California and Florida, although it grows easily in any warm zone – even deserts. Unlike many other conifers, which have numerous garden forms, variations in this plant are rare, and can be counted on one hand. This unique golden form was found by Edgar Norman Swane, at his nursery in Ermington, Australia.
In the 1940s Swane was working among a group of Italian Cypress trees, when he spotted a group of seedlings that had come up naturally, that had unusual golden foliage. He planted them and watched them grow for several years, before selecting the best one of them all, with the strongest gold coloring, lasting all year round, and the narrowest shape, with a single central shoot growing upwards. This plant he named ‘Swane’s Gold’, and in 1956 he began to distribute it to nurseries to grow. In 1976 he was granted a US Patent on his plant (PP #3,839), which expired in 1996.
Our plants of the Golden Italian Cypress are grown from selected stem pieces taken from plants derived from that original unique seedling. These pieces are rooted and carefully grown to have a strong, upright leader, producing a very narrow plant just like the original. This plant has remained rare and difficult to find, but we have sourced some terrific plants, that will literally shine in your garden. There is always enormous demand for these rare varieties, so our stock will not last long.