I’m a changed man

I just realized that I have become somewhat of a cultivar snob – and I’m not very pleased with myself. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time searching the internet, looking for more information about conifers and I’ve come across websites whose educational focus is on Species trees. Generally speaking, these are the indigenous trees to specific geographical locations. I usually just roll my eyes and move along. I am extremely interested in the cultivated variants of these species – the genetically different or mutated forms that arise through naturally occurring seedling variations or foliar mutations which may occur in the form of sports or brooms.

Juniperus cedrus
The silvery blue foliage of Juniperus cedrus droops from upright gowing branches giving a light, whispy appearance.

I hadn’t realized until today that I have silently scoffed at the interest many have in these “pure” species trees. Aside from naturally occurring Pseudotsuga menziesii and a few Calocedrus decurrens, Thuja plicata, Picea pungens and Cedrus deodara that were planted on the property forty or fifty years ago, I certainly have not added any pure species tree to my garden. I’ve always considered the “native” trees to be far too large and unsophisticated for my personal tastes. I love the refined, tidy, compact growth rates of the dwarf and miniature conifers; the huge variation in color and texture; their relatively care-free nature and the fact that they are very unusual. Today I came to terms with my snobbery and am now publically admonishing myself. 

I feel better. 

What brought about this revelation? It was a tree that I have overlooked for far too long; a tree that is endangered in its natural habitat; a tree with a growth rate, color, texture and form worthy of the finest gardens. Unfortunately for some, it is a tree that is naturally limited to Zone 8-9 climates. The folks at Iseli have been grafting this tree for a number of years and have seen it survive single digit temperatures, so it is probable that it is hardy into Zone 7. The tree is, Juniperus cedrus, native to the Canary Islands at elevations from 1,600 to almost 8,000 feet. 

Juniperus cedrus
Over twenty years in the Jean Iseli Memorial Garden and this specimen of Juniperus cedrus is less than twenty feet tall.

Yes, I know, it’s another tree with two common genus names (like Picea abies), but don’t let that cause you confusion or distress. This is a magnificent upright growing Juniper with silvery, blue-gray foliage that gently weeps and sways in the slightest breeze giving a delightful glimmering effect. This rare conifer should do well almost anywhere in the temperate Pacific Northwest and throughout Zones 7-9.

Go on, plant one in your garden – I dare ya! 

Conifer Lover

3 thoughts on “I’m a changed man

  1. Interesting, Ed! I’m more of a species guy myself — although you’re right, they do quickly get out of hand if not kept in pots, which means maintenance — and I had never heard of Juniperus cedrus. Thanks for the post,



  2. Ed, we have a lovely Juniperus cedrus that is about 10 feet tall – not sure how old it is because it was in a 24″ box at purchase so it wasn’t born yesterday. It’s been in the ground here for about 2-3 years. You didn’t mention another advantage of species selections – they’re often cheaper than the snazzy cultivars. This 24″ box was only $250 (wholesale), which is about 1/2 of what a comparable cultivar would have cost! Thanks for writing about junipers again. They just don’t get the respect that they deserve!


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