To make your garden your own, it needs distinctive character. One way to do that is with a collection of unique and unusual plants growing among the more ordinary, low-maintenance shrubs and plants that are needed in every garden. Ideally, that specimen will have a special look, be eye-catching and appealing even to non-gardeners, and hopefully also be easy to care for. Some interesting plants are very slow-growing, so you wait a long, long time for a mature specimen to develop, like an investment with a slow return – but not all of them. Wissel’s Saguaro Cypress is very eye-catching, resembling the famous Saguaro Cactus of Arizona, with twisted branches like upraised arms. It is sure to attract attention, yet it is easy to grow, and reaches 6 feet within ten years, so you won’t wait long for a great specimen to develop.
Growing Wissel’s Saguaro Cypress Trees
Wissel’s Saguaro Cypress is an upright evergreen bush, reaching 6 feet tall after 10 years of growth, and being just 2 feet wide at that time. Unlike a regular upright evergreen, which forms a smooth column of green, this one is irregular, with tight, twisted foliage wrapping itself around every stem, creating a number of ‘arms’ branching from the central trunk and then immediately turning upwards. It grows at a moderately fast rate, adding 6 to 8 inches of new height on its branches each year. The foliage of the ordinary Lawson Cypress grows in flattened fans of green, not very different from other cypress or arborvitae. In this variety, the foliage is very different, with multiple small stems growing together (called ‘fastigiate’) and in tight clusters, looking like branching coral. It is a deep blue-green color, adding to the cactus-like effect.
Such a dramatic plant deserves a prominent place in your garden. Plant it as a specimen among rocks and gravel, perhaps with other interesting conifers nearby, or with some hardy cactus, to enhance the illusion. Grow it in a courtyard or by a sunny terrace, and its exotic look would also work well in an Asian-style garden. It is also excellent in a planter or large pot, where it can be placed on a terrace or patio to be admired. A pair could frame a doorway, a garden gate or a window, and it would be effective as a single plant, or placed in groups of three or five. If you plant a cluster like that, allow at least 3 feet between each plant, or they will merge into a less-attractive mass of vegetation.
Planting and Initial Care
Grow Wissel’s Saguaro Cypress in full sun, although it will tolerate a little shade for part of the day as well. It grows best in moist, well-drained soil, preferring slightly acidic ground, but it is very adaptable, and grows well in almost any well-drained soil, as long as it is not often dry, or highly alkaline. Once established it will tolerate normal periods of summer dryness, but it should be watered deeply during extended periods of drought. It prefers moderate temperatures, and it thrives in zone 5 and 6 and it normally has no significant pests or diseases, and it is very easy to grow. It needs no pruning, but you can emphasize the ‘cactus’ look by removing some of the smaller branches, especially any that grow horizontally. Leave just a few arms to develop, and this will give the most dramatic look. Prune in mid-spring before the new growth appears, or in mid-summer as soon as that growth has matured. Only remove small branches and don’t cut into old wood.
History and Origins of Wissel’s Saguaro Cypress Trees
The story of Wissel’s Saguaro Cypress is an interesting one. It is a form of the Lawson Cypress, Chamaecyparis lawsoniana. That tree grows wild in the forests of Oregon and north-western California, from the coast up the valleys into the mountains, to 5,000 feet above sea level. These are tall trees, with straight, towering trunks that can be 200 feet tall. It was first seen in Europe after the nursery of Lawson & Son, Edinburgh, Scotland sent an explorer and plant collector to western America in the 1850s. Because of this it is called the Lawson cypress, but in Oregon it is also called the Port Orford cypress, the place where the first trees were found growing. The tree is popular in Europe, and in 1885 a unique-looking individual was found at a forestry station in Tharandt, Germany. A nurseryman from Epe, Germany, called F. van der Wissel, began selling plants of this tree, and it was called ‘Wisselii’. It is a large, upright tree with dense, coral-like foliage. Then, in the early 1960s a nurseryman in Mijdrecht, The Netherlands, called J.B.A. Dekker, found a witch’s broom growing on a tree of ‘Wisselii’. It had even more pronounced coral-like foliage, and it grew with just one central stem into a small tree. It was released into the market by the K.A. Koemans Nursery of Boskoop, and its resemblance to the saguaro cactus, Carnegiea gigantea, led to this form being called ‘Wissel’s Saguaro’.
It takes a lot of detective work to track down these specialized plants at small growers, and to be able to offer them to you. Our clients know that we have unique plants, and since the supply is very limited, they sell-out very quickly indeed. Order now, as special plants like this are never regular stock items, and they may not be back for a long time.