On Gardening

Lemon cypress shrub adds pretty touch to winter garden

McClatchy-Tribune News ServiceJanuary 25, 2013 


The brightly colored lemon cypress makes a stunning partner for cool season flowering kale. (MCT)


Using shrubs as annuals is an idea catching on across the country. I tried it, and am delighted with my first winter effort. If you have ever planted a tropical hibiscus or maybe a cluster of colorful crotons in your beds way north of the frost-free line, then you are really a visionary.

A few marauding, pansy-eating deer caused me to take this drastic action in my winter landscape. After having done extensive soil preparation and planting several hundred pansies, with flowering kale as companions, I found myself with only the kale. I went searching for something else to pair with its boldly beautiful iridescent leaves.

A local garden center had just received a shipment of lemon cypress with its shocking, golden chartreuse needle-like foliage. The lemon cypress is known botanically as Cupressus macrocarpa and is native to the Monterey Bay area of California. This is a far cry from the torrid heat of a Georgia summer, but we are talking winter, right?

The lemon cypress looks like the perfect golden Christmas tree or topiary. Just think about the possibilities. Many of you already buy rosemary topiaries at Christmas or even the blue-needled pinon pine, so why not a lemon cypress? But here is where the discussion makes a turn. Many times these little topiaries are used just indoors for the holiday season and then left to die, or thrown away. Why not use them outdoors for a longer season if your winter temperatures allow?

Why be jealous of mountain areas that grow firs or spruce? We can all grow a Douglas fir or a Fraser fir as annuals in the landscape to create a winter wonderland. In addition to using lemon cypress, we are also using a dwarf Alberta spruce as the thriller plant in a mixed container with pansies and dusty miller.

The price point on the lemon cypress was just right, and they have proven to be the perfect complement to the purple-foliaged kale. When they get backlit by the morning or afternoon sun, they appear to glow. The winter hardiness zone of 7-10 encompasses all of North Carolina.

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