With work to be done on the foundation of my house, I'm afraid I will be losing one of my favorite plants, chamaecyparis nootkatensis 'pendula.'
You can call her Nootka.
Nootka and I became fast friends the moment I saw her at a local garden center. She was barely as tall as me, and those who know me know that isn't very tall. I was not only attracted to her because of her graceful, pyramidal shape, but also because of her long, drooping branches.
A conifer, Nootka, is an eye opener. Of all the trees in my garden, this one has gotten the most attention. I planted her just off to the side of a window where I could enjoy her company from inside as well as out and now, nearly nine years later, she towers over the house. But it is because of her location that she will now have to go. I will miss her.
Chamaecyparis, or false cypress, is one of the most common groups of conifers with multitudes of varieties in every imaginable shape, size and shade of green, yellow and blue. False cypress originated in North America and Japan and are named because they are cloely related to the true cypress. Most will grow easily as long as they have adequate moisture and some varieties, such as C. obtusa, are able to handle periods of heat and drought. One variety in particular, C. thyoides, will tolerate wet, boggy conditions but the rest prefer not to sit in standing water.
My tree is in a high spot in the yard that had good drainage but wasn't too dry either, so it was perfect, until now.
I am fond of nearly all varieties of chamaecyparis, but the nootkatensis species in particular with their narrow, pillar-like shape and downward sweeping branches are my favorites. Pendula is a fast growing variety and adds a sculptured look to the garden when it is placed with other, fuller conifers and trees. Nootka stood in a conifer grove along with a couple C. obtusas, a contorted filbert and a Crimson Queen palm-leaf maple. With the construction, I'm hoping, at the very least, to save the filbert and the maple. The others are easily replaced, including Nootka, although she is my favorite.
Sometimes things happen, and the only way to approach it is by realizing the opportunity to start over.
Foundation plants not only enhance a home, but when done correctly, draw the eye to the surrounding landscape. I'm not fond of houses that sit in the middle of a lot with a few shrubs under the windows and nothing expanding into the yard to tie everything together. It's like setting a vase with a single flower in the middle of a huge table to bear all the burden of welcoming guests to dinner.
When deciding what to plant near the house, take into consideration the architecture of the home. A small house with huge plantings could seem overwhelming, while plantings that are too small can do little for the house they are attempting to frame.
When I was young, I remember cleanly shaped shrubs, trimmed into unnatural geometric shapes, which seemed to be the trend of 1950s city lots. When the migration to suburbia and more varieties of cultivated foundation plants available, shrubs were chosen based on their natural shapes and sizes instead of being sheared to fit.
Medium and smaller shrubs can go in front and under windows so as not to hide their view. Taller trees, like Nootka, should live on corners or off to the side. My Nootka is on the corner of the house to the side of a window, not directly in front of it.
The most important thing to remember is to give the shrub adequate room. A typical rule of thumb is to place the potted or balled plant where you want it and then plant it five feet from that spot. What might seem small at first will quickly grow into something large and robust, and will likely need more space than you expect.
I haven't decided if I'm going to replace Nootka with another C. nootkatensis 'pendula.' There are a lot of lovely shrubs and trees out there, and I will take my time making that decision, but I'll never forget her.