Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Cupressaceae: The Cypress Family

Cupressus sempervirens illustration by Maxfield Parrish 1903

Juniperus chinensis December 2009

Cupressaceae (the Cypress family) is exceptionally useful in Pacific Northwest gardens. Many members of the family grow here as native plants. The Cypress family includes species of Chamaecyparis & Thuja such as Alaskan Cedar, Port Orford Cedar, & Western Red Cedar. Chamaecyparis nootkatensis ‘Pendula’ has a very graceful, open form. Chamaecyparis lawsoniana has many attractive dwarf forms such as ‘Blue Surprise,’ ‘Lutea Nana’ & ‘Somerset.’ A smaller, narrower form of Thuja plicata (Western Red Cedar) is ‘Fastigiata.’ Other widely used genera of the family Cupressaceae are Cupressus, Juniperus, Thujopsis & exotic members of the genus Chamaecyparis such as Hinoki Cypress & Sawara Cypress. There are so many Junipers, I wouldn’t know where to begin. Don’t make the mistake of hating all Junipers because of the ubiquitous, sprawling Juniperus chinensis ‘Pfitzeriana.’ The Hillier Gardener’s Guide to Trees & Shrubs says Cupressus sempervirens ‘Swane’s Golden’ is 1 of the best medium-sized golden conifers for the small garden. Various forms of Chamaecyparis obtusa are popular here for their exceptional beauty. Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Boulevard’ is a nice small tree with fluffy, blue foliage.

Familiar Members of Cupressaceae
Chamaecyparis (False Cypress)
Cupressus (Cypress)
Juniperus (Juniper)
Metasequoia (Dawn Redwood)
Sequoia (Coast Redwood)
Sequoiadendron (Sierra Redwood)
Thuja (Arborvitae)
Thujopsis (False Arborvitae)

Cupressaceae for Pacific Northwest Gardens
Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Gracilis’ (Slender Hinoki Cypress)
Cupressus sempervirens (Italian Cypress)
Juniperus communis ‘Compressa’ (Dwarf Irish Juniper)
Juniperus conferta (Shore Juniper)
Thuja koraiensis (Korean Arborvitae)
Thujopsis dolabrata ‘Nana’ (Dwarf False Arborvitae)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Ericaceae: The Heath Family

Erica australis February 2009

Erica manipuliflora September 2009

Ericaceae is an important family of plants for Seattle gardens. Northwest natives, as well as favorites from Europe & Asia are among the ericaceous shrubs. The family was named for the genus Erica (Heath). Most members of the family have clusters of urn-shaped flowers, although some like Rhododendron have bell-shaped flowers, as though the urn had split into lobes. As a family many share a distinctive rounded form & branching pattern. They are mostly evergreen with leathery leaves. There is a great wealth of different & pleasing shrubs among Rhododendron species. The same is true of Arctostaphylos (Manzanita). These 2 thrive in very different environments. The center of Rhododendron diversity is in the moist & forested Himalayas. Manzanitas are centered in the dry chaparral of southwestern North America. Useful Northwest native plants in this family include Arctostaphylos columbiana (Hairy Manzanita), Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (Kinnikinnick), Arbutus menziesii (Madrona) & Gaultheria shallon (Salal).

Arbutus unedo (Strawberry Tree)

Arctostaphylos columbiana (Hairy Manzanita)
Calluna vulgaris (Heather)
Daboecia cantabrica (Irish Heath)
Erica arborea (Tree Heath)
Kalmia latifolia (Mountain Laurel)
Menziesia ferruginea (Fool’s Huckleberry)
Pieris japonica (Lily of the Valley Shrub)

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (Kinnikinnick)
Gaultheria procumbens (Wintergreen)