Recently, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society announced its most recent Gold Medal Awards for garden plants. I was excited to see that my own excellent taste in plants had been validated by the inclusion of Chaemacyparis obtusa ‘Nana’, or dwarf Hinoki falsecypress.
I fell in love with this shrub/tree during my education as a landscape designer. I love(d) its evergreen presence, the somewhat loose (but not out of control) way its branches and needles grew in a whorl-like manner, and the idea that you could include it in a mixed border or small garden and its slow-growing nature meant it wouldn’t eat the yard/house.
As both a gardener and photographer, I’ve found other aspects of it to admire.
The bark exfoliates if the plant has been mislabeled (as sometimes happens in nurseries) and it’s not a ‘Nana’ after all. See this example from Filoli.
And last but not least, it produces these adorable little mini-cones.
The PHS chose this plant because, as my friend and colleague Jane Berger wrote in her blog post announcing the awards, “it is sorely under-used compared to dwarf Alberta spruce”, which is planted in so many housing developments.” (Don’t get me started on Alberta spruces . . .). The wood is rot-resistant and in Japan has been used for building temples, shrines, palaces, Noh theatres, and goodness knows what else. But if you aren’t in the market for hardwood to build with, plant it for its beauty. It’s hardy from Zones 5-7, and possibly into Zone 8A.