Monday, July 24, 2017

Weeping Cedar Atlas Plant - Garden Specimen Plant

Whether you've planned a garden from scratch or just planted things disregarding any plan, one thing sure to make you happy in the garden is having some sort of specimen, or focal, plant. Sure, there are other types of focal points in the garden that are great to have, but I'm talking about the kind of eye-catching, show-stealing star of your garden's plantings. It may be a flowering plant, it may be a tree, it may have year-round interest, or may be a short display in one season.
Many of you made mention of a particular plant in my garden in my Mid-Summer Garden Blooms, Views post from the photo I shared (below). This plant - a weeping [blue] cedar Atlas - was purposely chosen as a garden specimen, or focal, plant, with the future growth characteristics in mind when we planted it in 2004. Today's post is all about that shining star in my garden, and how it's changed over the last 13 years.
The weeping blue cedar Atlas' preferred USDA hardiness growing Zones are 6-9. This and other weeping blue cedar Atlas plant facts are summarized at the end of this post. Below is a photo of how our weeping cedar Atlas appeared nine months after being planted (August, 2005). In 2004, our area was USDA hardiness rated as Zone 6b; in 2012 it was rezoned as Zone 7a. There is a single stake supporting the plant, and a few strategic anchors in the brick wall. Notice the sinewy, snaking trunk, a feature of this specimen that only gets better with age.
The photo below puts our original landscape garden into perspective. The weeping cedar Atlas is on the left side of the frame below (The Japanese maple planted just beyond the weeping cedar looks like a bush. The mature, very tall and colorful tree in the background is our sassafras, growing on the riverbank across the street.). Look at all that space in the garden among plantings. This is an example of avoiding a very typical pitfall of many who do plan/plant gardens. We planned for the maturity of the plants and space needed in our landscape garden plantings to avoid wasting money having to necessarily pull plants within just a couple years as a result of overgrowth.
I said in my previous garden post it is very hard to capture the weeping cedar Atlas in its entirety, as it now spans over 24' across the brick on the west side of our garden wall. I stood on a bench inside our courtyard, about 50' away, to get it all in the lens. This is our weeping blue cedar Atlas, nearly 13 years after the original planting. The draping, twisting branches are one of its noted features.
The main trunk of the weeping cedar Atlas has also grown in thickness. The photo below was taken in 2015, as seen from standing in front of the plant. The sinewy trunk is even more outstanding now, with an obviously more burly appearance than when first planted.
The photo below is a trunk shot taken this year (2017), as seen from underneath, behind the draping growth. It resembles a snake the likes of an Anaconda python, doesn't it?!
Another shot, as taken from below/behind, looking upward, with the brick supporting wall at the top of the frame. This shows the branches above and beyond the main trunk. Yes, I was totally crouched beneath to get the shot.
The following photo shows the profile of the plant. Notice the Japanese maple behind the weeping cedar. When comparing this shot to the one above showing the original planting, it's pretty amazing to me every time I review the then and now photo. We limit our plant to within the depth of the mulch bed, not to extend into the lawn (or much behind the wall).
The photo below is how the weeping cedar appeared in the winter of 2014. This shot demonstrates the year-round seasonal beauty of our specimen plant. Snow on the branches really defines its shape! The branches to the far right only extended to the top edge of the frame at that time, and now they touch the mulch in the ground below (compare to the full-length photo earlier in this post). I can count five different stakes standing vertically along the plant, supporting and training its growth. The stakes, in some cases, now consist of 1" galvanized pipes with t-fittings in order for the branches to better cascade.
The detailed photo below shows the cones of the weeping cedar atlas. This is as large as they get, about 1-2 inches maximum. They are unnoticeable when they fall in the mulch, not sticky, sharp or harmful to pets. They simply turn brown and decompose into the mulch.
Here are the facts about the weeping blue cedar Atlas plant:
  • Latin, scientific name is Cedrus Atlantica 'Glauca Pendula' - part of the pine family
  • Common names are weeping blue cedar Atlas, weeping blue cedar, weeping Atlas cedar, weeping cedar Atlas, weeping cedar
  • USDA preferred hardiness Zones 6-9
  • Best in full sun - is drought resistant after getting established, low maintenance.
  • Does well in most types of soil, but acidic/loam soil is best. Needs good drainage. 
  • No significant pest or disease issues but should be placed in area protected from strong winds.
  • Mature growth is typically 10' high and 15-20' wide. Actual size will depend on how you train it to span and drape. If you don't train it upright early, it will grow low to the ground.
  • Foliage is powdery blue needles, cones in spring/summer.
  • Pruning should be done in dormant season (late winter) to train (no more than 1/3 of plant). Fertilize (I use Hollytone) in spring.

I mentioned when we planted this evergreen we gave forethought to avoiding the pitfall of not allowing enough space for our specimen weeping cedar Atlas to mature. To read more of those pitfalls to avoid when planning a landscape garden, see my post titled Landscape Plan: Lessons Learned, Pitfalls to Avoid

Do you have a specimen or focal plant in your garden? Are you thinking about planting one? Fall is a great time to plant. I am a non-revenue producing blog, but I would recommend this link from Monrovia Plant Catalog to help you choose a specimen (or any other particular type) plant for your garden. Under the 'Landscape Use' selection, you can choose specimen. You can also modify the results with other categories specific to your area to find what works. Good luck!

Thanks for your visit. and I'd love to hear your comments, or you can email me anytime.
Rita C. at Panoply