beloved conifer: chamaecyparis obtusa ‘crippsii’

crippsii-detail-2.jpgTHE FINAL (?) SNOW MELTED OFF THE ‘CRIPPSII’ last week, and from underneath a frosting of silvery-white this most charming of Chamaecyparis, the golden Hinoki falsecypress, showed its gleaming golden self again. Heavenly days. Fifth in a series on beloved conifers.

For year-round gold in the garden, except when a covering of snow tries to hide it, lacy ‘Crippsii’ would be (and is) my choice. It has a graceful habit, particularly if grown in slightly more shade than sun, as my oldest plant among several here has been for a decade or so.

If you read up on the Hinokis, many references will say to grow them in full sun, but here’s my issue: Out in the full sun, I can’t give this beauty the winter-wind protection it needs here in Zone 5 to prevent browning of some foliage.

Winterburn is often not fatal, but if you have seen it on conifers or broad-leaved evergreens like rhododendron or hollies, you’d be motivated to find spots in the garden for your susceptible plants that help prevent it. Ugh. It is particularly hideous on a yellow-leaved plant.

Recommended for Zones 5-8, ‘Crippsii’ will grow to 25 feet, I have read, in 20 years, and 50 feet eventually. My largest ‘Crippsii’ is probably just shy of 20 in a decade, having started at maybe 6 feet; in the wild it gets many times larger.

crippsii-chamaecyparisTo prevent it from getting too big for the spot between the toolshed and the cat’s cabin where I have planted it (yes, Jack has a cabin; the one on the left in the photo above and behind the prayer flags up top), I’ve headed it back twice over the years. I snipped off just some ambitious tips where the spray-like flattened needles fork, telling the plant gently to redirect its growth into fullness rather than elongation. Note: Never cut back into old wood on a Chamaecyparis (I was able to find a video that might help describe why and how to prune lightly this way, better than I can here).

gold-moneywort-and-cold-foliage-of-crippsii-chamaecyparisEven with the heading back, my plant is looser than ones grown out in the open; another side-effect of having chosen a semi-shaded spot for it. It is also less golden at low-light times of year, as in the top two late-winter photos, but compared to being cinnamon-colored and crispy-burned, I’ll take the yellow-green in winter. It gets bright gold quickly as the daylight strengthens now.

clematis polish spirit in chamaecyparisOne more thing I love about my ‘Crippsii:’ The way it happily cohabitates with Clematis such as ‘Polish Spirit’ (above). Save


    1. margaret says:

      Hi, Deborah. If the mud (now frozen again!) recedes, I will be out there keeping you posted on the to-do’s, promise. :)

  1. Brian G. says:

    In your ‘how it looked then’ link up top right we can see a glimpse of this at about half it’s current size. I love seeing the progression of plants. Having a photographic record of a plant through the years is something you can’t get in a catalogue or a nursery. We should all do the same so we can see where we’ve been, where we are and perhaps where we should be going in our garden design.

  2. Chloe says:

    I love the graceful fans of the golden hinoki falsecypress. The color looks beautiful against other evergreens and makes it even more of a show stopper. Your cabins look so fun.

    1. margaret says:

      Thanks, Cheryl, and welcome. Jack the cat is a raucous decorator; loves color. I will tell him you like the decor outside his cabin. (If he ever wakes up or stops eating long enough.) See you soon.

  3. Joan says:

    A lovely tree–though anything named crippssi (rhymes with tipsy) has to be good. I love the green/gold and purple combination–makes me swoon.

    1. margaret says:

      Welcome, Joan. Say crips-ee-EYE, and it won’t rhyme anymore. I think the double i’s common to various cultivar names are said like E-I. Thank you for the kind words, and do visit soon again.

  4. deborah says:

    yr da best. I limit my blog/twit/computer time to work such, but between all, yr garden blog is my necessary happiest diversion. thank you again.

  5. Mars says:

    Crips-ee-EYE, huh? Way cool.

    Doesn’t the mood lift and the busy mind just go blank when you see a tree like this? Now if we could just get some cyber-scent thing going.

    Thank you!

  6. Natasha says:

    I just found this site, it’s wonderful. What Brian G. mentions is so true, I often can’t tell how something will really look when it’s mature from catalogs and nurseries.

    I have a question about the Hinoki falsecypress I splurged on last year (a smaller one than yours, Confucius). I thought it was in a spot to be well protected from winter sun and wind, but somehow at the end of winter the dear thing become brown from the top to about 6 inches form the ground (it’s about 4 feet high total). What should I do for the poor thing now? And come next winter (I live in a section of southern Wisconsin which is Zone 5a), should I wrap it in burlap or something (assuming it lasts that long…) Thanks for any advice!

    1. margaret says:

      Welcome, Natasha. Doesn’t sound like the spot will work for this lovely but a-bit-finicky plant. As for what to do immediately, I’d watch and see what *it* does…is there life in those twigs? Will it sort of slough off the brown and put on new growth or is it too far gone?

      I had one that looked like total hell after its first winter but then stabilized. Though some foliage at the tips was damaged (and also the normal shedding of the old stuff along the interior of its branches happened, the way conifers do) the twigs were alive. I have seen them come from wholesale nurseries to the garden center in awful condition and rebound. If you do try again with another plant, it must be really well-watered right into the end of fall…right up until the ground freezes…and I would try an even more protected spot. You can wrap it, yes, but how will you do that when it’s large? Though it may be technically hardy, it may not like your site (again, there are so many “hardy” evengreen things I can’t grow out in the open here for just the reason you are describing).

      I’m afraid it’s all a big experiment, and with precious things like this, it can be really painful. Not a good answer, huh?

  7. Mary Kingsley says:

    I just planted a fernspray [height 6 ft, may be a bit more] in Maryland. We had record number of over 90 degree days. On north side of home, but it gets sun. Noted you stated [Margaret] that interior branches shed. All the interior branches of tree, once dark green, are now gold, not a lively yellow, a dead-ish gold. Is this normal for this type of tree or is plant in shock of some sort? Any ideas?

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Mary. In September and October, many conifers shed their oldest (innermost) foliage in a very unattractive manner. I sometimes cannot look at it very long and go in with my hand or a tool and brush the dead needles/foliage off. See if that helps, otherwise be patient. Though we think of them as “evergreen” conifers actually only keep each leaf for a couple or few years. Hence the shed. Ugh, but essential.

  8. Angela says:

    Hmmm, I think I will have to live vicariously through this website for the things I just cannot grow here. I have a dwarf Hinoki cypress which is protected by snow over winter for the most part (but as soon as it grows above the snow forget it) but I long for a blue chamaecyparis Boulevard to grow full size, that will never happen either unless we get serious global warming. I have taken some very small cuttings of Boulevard and the theory is if I can start them off small then perhaps they will have a better chance than the ones purchased at 3 feet tall.

    1. Margaret says:

      Thanks, AC. Yes, this is a good tree, beautiful every day of the year. I am thankful that a gardening friend turned me on to it many years ago. Hope to see you again soon!

  9. jessica Hilton says:

    By far, my most favorite conifer ever!.The shimmering of light that plays through the fans is absolutely stunning.LOVE!LOVE!LOVE mine

  10. Pat England says:

    My Crippsii is so beautiful and has grown leaps and bounds. In fact, much higher than I would like for the space. Is there anyway that I can prune it back to about half its current height without ruining the tree?

  11. Leslie Rider says:

    We just bought a Crippsii and are very excited!!! Can’t wait to plant it . We learned a lot from your site!

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