Every garden needs something truly unique in it – a special plant that is both beautiful and eye-catching, and a real conversation piece. This could be something rare and hard to grow, but let’s leave those plants for the dedicated gardeners. Instead we can take an easy to grow plant, and with some skillful training by our growers, turn it into a unique piece ready to find a place in your garden, that won’t ask a lot from you. Here at the Tree Center we are always on the lookout for these plants, and we were truly excited when we found a limited stock of something very, very special. The growers took the tough Atlas cedar in its blue weeping form and created the Serpentine Blue Atlas Cedar – a real centerpiece for your garden, that will always be beautiful, and that is easy to grow, tough and reliable.
Growing Serpentine Blue Atlas Cedar Trees
The Serpentine Blue Atlas Cedar is a specimen tree that has been trained to form a continuous ‘S’ shaped stem, bending back and forth as it goes up the stake. From the undulating trunk, with its smooth gray bark, long pendulous branches fall, covered in dense clusters of silver-blue needles. This evergreen foliage is beautiful all year round, from spring when the new stems are brilliant silver blue, to the deeper silver gray-blue it takes in summer and all through the winter months. It can be a free-standing specimen in a lawn or garden bed, or planted to grow up a sunny wall, a fence or trellis panels. Whatever way you choose to grow it, this fabulous plant will have everyone talking, and you will have something truly unique in your garden – without needing special skills or lots of work.
The Serpentine Blue Atlas Cedar is fast growing, adding 12 to 24 inches of new growth to its main stems every year. You will soon have a large, mature specimen on display. Give it plenty of room when planting, as it is not a dwarf conifer, but ultimately a large plant. It will grow to about 15 feet tall in 10 years, if you have the height to support it, and 8 feet or more wide, depending on how you grow it. The evergreen foliage is silver-blue colored, and it grows as dense clusters, with about 25 one-inch needles in each cluster. These cover the older stems. New stems have needles all along them, with the clusters developing in the next and subsequent years, as the stems mature and thicken. Young bark is smooth, slightly glossy, and gray. Older bark becomes browner, splitting into long fissures, and looking rugged and handsome. Older trees may produce cones in late summer and into the fall. These look like small pinecones, 2 to 3 inches long, blue when young, turning light brown, and adding an attractive decorative element to the tree.
How the Serpentine Blue Atlas Cedar develops in your garden depends on you. It will come ready-trained and attached to a sturdy stake. The main trunk has already been turned back and forth on that stake to give the serpentine effect. If you want to grow this tree as a free-standing specimen, we suggest replacing the stake with a tall steel rod, driven well into the ground. The rod needs to be strong and rigid, and it can be as tall as you want. When planting, transfer the stem to the new stake, using loose ties to allow for the expansion of the trunk. Continue to train the flexible top stem up the stake, folding it back and forth as it grows. Simply allow the other stems to cascade down as a curtain of blue. Alternatively, plant the tree at the base of a sunny wall, or against a tall fence or trellis. Attach the stem to supports driven into the wall or tie it to the trellis as it grows. On a flat surface like this, you can let your imagination take over, and spread it out in all directions if you wish, or you can keep the central serpentine stem that has already been made. Multiple serpentine stems can cover a large surface – have fun and create your own unique living sculpture.
The Serpentine Blue Atlas Cedar is easy to grow. Plant it in full sun, in zones 6, 7 and 8. It grows in most soils, doing best on deep, well-drained and slightly acidic soils. Once established it is very drought resistant, and it can be used for xeric landscaping, as well as tolerating the heat and humidity of hot summers. It has no significant pests or diseases. Once the stem has thickened this tree is self-supporting, but if grown in the open we recommend keeping it attached to a sturdy stake, to protect from breakage in strong winds and during snow falls.
History and Origins of Serpentine Blue Atlas Cedar Trees
Many evergreen trees are commonly called ‘cedar’, but the true cedars are a small group, and one of them, the Atlas cedar, Cedrus atlantica, grows naturally high in the Atlas Mountains, a range that begins in Morocco and stretches all the way into Algeria. It is a close relative of the famous Cedar of Lebanon. Wild trees grow in large forests, and they can be over 100 feet tall, with a central trunk and broad spreading branches. Tree like that are sometimes seen in the gardens of older homes. Seedlings have variable needle coloring, and some are rich silver blue, rather than the green-blue of wild trees. These plants are called the Glauca Group, or blue Atlas cedar, Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca’.
As the 19th century was ending, a gardener at the Paillet Nursery, in Châtenay-sur-Seine, France, found a strange seedling among a batch of blue Atlas cedars. It didn’t grow upright, but instead it trailed across the ground. He showed it to Ludwig Beissner, the head of the Bonn Botanic Garden in Germany, and plants made from that original seedling were spread around the world. This is the weeping blue Atlas cedar, called ‘Glauca Pendula’, and it is from young plants of this variety our growers create the Serpentine Blue Atlas Cedar. These creations take skill and time to create, but the hard part is over, and the fun is left for you. The demand is huge, and the supply very limited, so order now, and you can enjoy this wonderful plant in your own garden.