Saturday, December 22, 2012

Russian Cypress
Microbiota decussata

This singular species was found by the Russian botanist Komarov in 1921, introduced into western gardens in 1957. Popularized in 1973 at the Chelsea Flower Show in Great Britain, it is rather uncommon.
This conifer belongs to the family Cupressaceae and is closely related to junipers (Juniperus) and true cypress (Cupressus).
Russian Cypress is a low spreading evergreen shrub 1’ to 1 ½’ high, spreading 4’ to 8’. The scale-like foliage is soft, delicate and feathery light-green in appearance. Like Eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana) the foliage turns purplish brown in winter. Inconspicuous woody single-seeded cones can be irregularly produced.

Russian Cypress is best suited to moist, loose, well-drained preferably acidic soils. In full sun it requires adequate moisture; it also can grow in partial to full shade. In poorly drained soils root rot can be a problem; it experiences no serious diseases or pests. Deer may browse the foliage.

Also called Siberian Cypress and Russian Arbovitae, this shrub is found in mountainous areas of eastern Siberia, in the lands of the Siberian Tiger. This shrub is often chosen as a groundcover over junipers because it is less susceptible to blight. It is tolerant of wind and salt, excellent for coastal areas and roadsides affected by winter road spray. It works well on slopes or embankments mixed with rock boulders. I have used Russian Cypress in rock delineated borders with rhododendrons, Frost Grass (Spodiopogon sibiricus), Artemisia lactifolia guizhou group a White Mugwort cultivar, Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorum purpureum), Siberian Iris cultivars or Iris lactea.

‘Fuzz Ball' is the only cultivar and has soft, fuzzy foliage. It is more compact with somewhat rounded form. It makes an ideal conifer for the rock garden.

Russian cypress is an excellent groundcover choice for northern landscapes. USDA zone 2-7.
Tell me of your experience with this conifer shrub!

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