My Dear ‘Nana’

I first became interested in dwarf conifers back in the early 1970’s. In those days, I was working with a landscaper primarily doing yard and garden care. I had the opportunity to mow lawns and pull weeds in some of the finest private gardens in my area. That was when I was introduced to my first love. She was a beauty, short for her age and bigger around than tall with lovely dark green, tightly held foliage. I’m going to guess that she was nearly 30 years old at the time and truly a sight to behold. My boss called her “Dwarf Hinoki,” but I came to know her as ‘Nana.’

Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Nana'

Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Nana’ was my first dwarf conifer love and that admiration has lasted all these years. She’s so soft and has a wonderful rich dark green color all year long. In fact, I’ve noticed as it has gotten colder over the past couple of weeks and some conifers have bronzed or become yellowish, ‘Nana’ seems to get darker and darker. In spring, as her new growth begins, she’ll brighten to fresh grass green and darken as the new foliage matures through the season.

‘Nana’ is one of the true miniature conifers that is well suited to rock gardens and container gardens of all kinds. Acquired when small, ‘Nana’ will be perfect for a trough garden for several years. When she outgrows that space, she may be easily transplanted to a container all her own or into the landscape. She’ll just need well drained soil and a sunny location.

My oldest specimen has a prominent place in my front garden, and I’ve recently purchased a second little plant in a four inch pot. I’m not sure exactly where this little beauty will go, but I couldn’t resist her during my last visit to the garden center in November!

Conifer Lover

5 thoughts on “My Dear ‘Nana’

  1. Hi Ed,

    I found your website googling for “nana gracillis.” I was in the nursery today looking for Emerald Arborvitae and I saw my first “nana gracillis,” it’s a very intriguing conifer.

    I’m a newbie in gardening and I must say that your blog is very inspiring. I’m very much interested in dwarf conifers because I have a limited space.

    Thank you for sharing your passion for these beautiful conifers.

    from Maryland


    1. Hi Tina – Thanks for your comments. ‘Nana Gracilis’ is a great dwarf conifer. A faster grower with a more open habit than ‘Nana’ but with similar dark green foliage. A must have in the conifer garden. Most all the dwarf Chamaecyparis will need to be grown in well-drained soil.


  2. Dear Ed:

    I am eyeing the ‘Nana gracilis’ for a spot under our neighborhood sign, so the slow-growing aspect and beautiful shape is appealing … we want to be able to keep it confined (eventually) to about 24″H x 24″W. How long will it tak for it to reach this size? Can you prune it back if need be? Can it take dry, hot conditions? Can it take road salt? Thanks for your expertise!

    South Bend, IN (land of lake-effect snowfall!)


    1. Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Nana Gracilis’ is a beautifully shaped, dark green conifer that will most definitely outgrow the 24×24″ bounds in which you wish to confine it. Growing 4 or 5 inches per year, even when planting a small specimen, it will grow to 24″ in just a few years. With expert pruning, one might contain its size for a number of years, but it would loose much of its natural character.

      Without knowing the specifics of your situation, I would suggest planting a ‘Nana Gracilis’ to the side of your neighborhood sign rather than beneath it. Keep in mind that any conifer that you might choose to plant will continue to grow throughout its life. You would be better served to choose one that will naturally grow more horizontally under the sign and not need to worry about it eventually blocking the sign.

      I would consider the following low, spreading conifers for under the sign:
      Abies amabalis ‘Spreading Star’
      Juniperus conferta ‘Silver Mist’
      Picea abies ‘Formanek’
      Picea pungens ‘Procumbens’
      Pinus sylvestris ‘Hillside Creeper’

      Or possibly a grouping of very slow-growing mini and dwarf conifers in combination with a ground cover or two, such as:
      Abies balsamea ‘Piccolo’
      Abies koreana ‘Cis’
      Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Just Dandy’
      Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Cumulus’
      Juniperus horizontalis ‘Mother Lode’ or ‘Golden Carpet’
      Picea abies ‘Fat Cat’
      Picea pungens ‘Lundeby’s Dwarf’
      Picea orientalis ‘Tom Thumb’
      Pinus mugo ‘Slowmound’
      Pinus mugo ‘Mitsch Mini’



      1. Thanks, Ed! This is extremely helpful. Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Just Dandy’ caught my eye as well. Are you fairly confident about it’s ability to withstand the dryness, heat and road salt exposure? This is not a mulched bed, but filled with landscape rock, and no sprinklers, just rain. At what center-to-center spacing would these need to be planted?


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