Louis Raymond experiments in his own gardens like

a mad scientist, searching out plants that most people have

never seen before & figuring out how to make them perform.- The Boston Globe

…Louis Raymond ensures that trees can grow in Brooklyn…

or just about any other place where concrete consumes

the dirt and skyscrapers shield the sunshine.- USA Today

 
 

NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.

 
 
 
 

NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.

 
 
 
 

New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.

 
 
 
 

Plant Profiles

Robinson's Gold leyland cypress

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Now that the cool weather is here for the Winter, the gold Leyland cypress begins to shine.  This cultivar is 'Robinson's Gold', which isn't as bright—OK, as loud—as some others.  They all grow quickly, with a feathery grace that sets them apart from the usual arborvitae. 

 

It's ironic that Leyland cypress are so rare this far north.  They're planted by the millions farther south, where it can be difficult to find a block without at least one property with a hedge of them.  But they're often short-lived in the heat.  Here in southern New England, Summer is cooler and the Winter is—just barely—still mild enough.  They thrive.  

 

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I'll begin shaping the tree this Spring.  Leylands can be pruned informally, to retain their feathery texture but at a controlled size.  They can also be pruned architecturally, with military corners joining flat and densely-foliaged faces.  Which style will partner best with the enormous stone slab that we didn't need to keep in service atop an out-of-service well?  I'll know when I've got the stepladder set up, with pruners in hand.

 

The woody tendrils clasping the wellstone?  American wisteria

 

 

Here's how to grow this versatile conifer:


Latin Name

x Cupressocyparis leylandii 'Robinson's Gold'

Common Name

'Robinson's Gold' leyland cypress

Family

Cupressaceae, the Cypress family.

What kind of plant is it?

Evergreen conifer, a spontaneously appearing hybrid between Cupressus macrocarpa and Chamaecyparis nootkatensis.

Hardiness

Zones 6 - 10.

Habit

Upright, with a strong central trunk and short side branches. 

Rate of Growth

Fast; in climates with long growing seasons, the tree can increase in height by three feet annually. 

Size in ten years

To twenty feet or more, eight feet wide.  Much smaller at maturity than the straight species, which can soar to seventy feet and higher.  'Robinson's Gold' tops out at about twenty-five feet.

Texture

Feathery.  Similar in habit and scale to arborvitae, but distinctly looser and more graceful than the Eastern arborvitae, Thuja occidentalis, or the giant arborvitae, Thuja plicata

Grown for

its habit: 'Robinson's Gold' has the typical broadly-vertical profile of Leyland cypresses.

 

its vigor: In full sun and in a warm climate, even small plants can reach twenty feet in less than a decade.    

 

its foliage: Soft and feathery, like that of arborvitae. 

 

its accommodating nature:  Leyland cypresses are as happy to grow when pruned authoritatively and even relentlessly, as they are to grow free-range.  They can be kept at almost any height indefinitely. 

Flowering season

Late Spring, but the flowers are not showy.  The cones they mature to aren't especially showy either.  'Robinson's Gold' is a conifer to plant for its foliage and its form, not its cones.

Color combinations

'Robinson's Gold' is a milder yellow than, say, 'Gold Rider'.  The color fades somewhat in hot weather, too, but returns when temperatures drop.  This less-than-electric hue makes 'Robinson's Gold' more versatile than its chrome-yellow relatives, who could associate congenially only with plants that celebrate green, white, burgundy, blue, or yellow.  'Robinson's Gold' could partner with pink and rose, too.

Partner Plants


'Robinson's Gold' is an easy star when backed with darker broadleaves such as large-scale rhododendrons, tree-sized holly, or Southern magnolia. 

 

If you've got a high-enough stepladder—the tree's trunk isn't thick enough to support an extention ladder—you could lead a rambler rose up through the open branches.  Or plant one of the taller clematis on the North side of the Leyland, where it will appreciate the shadier and therefore damper ground, and let it grow up and through the tree.  Companion plants with white flowers would show up well, such as Rosa 'Darlow's Enigma', Clematis 'Marie Boisselot', or C. macropetala 'Alpina Plena'. 

 

Blue-flowered clematis would be a thrill against the Leyland's soft-yellow foliage.  As with white-flowered partners, the goal is to plant a cultivar that will grow tall enough to ornament much of the tree, not just the bottom six feet.  'Perle d'Azure' and 'Mrs. Cholmondeley' (pronounced "Chumley") both top twelve feet; sixteen when happy.  Plant five or six feet away from the trunk, so the vine isn't competing as directly with the tree for moisture and nutrients.

Where to use it in your garden

'Robinson's Gold' is a gentle focal point, by virtue of its upright habit and its soft yellow coloring.  Plant it at the end of a vista, the longer the better.

Culture

Full sun; Leyland cypresses are thinner, less colorful, and less vigorous in anything but.  Good drainage is essential, but among conifers, the tree is uniquely tolerant of a wide range of pH, variance in soil fertility, as well as salt spray from ocean winds and winter road-salting. 

How to handle it:  The Basics

Leyland cypresses are difficult to transplant or dig; plant container-grown stock.  They grow so quickly that small plants are just fine.  While green cultivars of Leyland cypress are usually planted as hedges, you'll be unlikely to want a hedge with gold foliage.  'Robinson's Gold' is a great specimen.

How to handle it: Another option—or two?


While 'Robinson's Gold' has feathery grace when growing free-range, you might need to prune it to control size.  This is best done in early Spring in Zone 6, where the tree might get a bit of Winter tip damage even in the best of years.  Spring pruning allows the maximum length of warm-weather weeks for new growth to mature and harden in advance of the coming Winter.  In Zones 7 and up, Winter damage isn't a danger, so you can prune at almost any time. The trees carry foliage deep into their center, partly because of their feathery and loose growth, which permits a fair amount of light to penetrate.  So as long as you're pruning informally—by cutting individual branches or branch tips, so the pruned tree looks about as feathery as the unpruned—you'll also have the option to prune really hard if needed.  There will very likely be green shoots to carry on the resprouting even at the trunk.

 

Leyland cypresses can also be pruned formally, where all branch tips are regularly cut back to the same plane.  Growth pruned this way branches repeatedly and very close to the tip, and soon forms a dense layer of foliage.  This blocks light into the interior, shading out and, in essence, killing the deep interior green shoots and sprigs that informally-pruned Leylands will carry. 

 

Alone among conifers, yew and cunninghamia can regrow green shoots from bare inner branches, and even directly from the trunk.  Leyland cypresses, more typically, cannot.  Formally-pruned Leylands, therefore, can't be cut back hard on the sides, although they could be drastically shortened.  The bare top surface won't directly fill in from the center, because that old wood couldn't resprout.  But it will fill in from continued growth of shoots at the perimeter, which will now start growing toward the center, too.

Quirks or special cases

None.

Downsides

In climates with hot Summers and mild Winters, such as the Deep South or inland California, Leyland cypresses can be short-lived, and from several causes.  The high heat combines with the tree's shallow roots to increase drought stress as well as susceptibility to a fatal canker that is decimating one of Leyland's parents, the Monterey cypress, Cupressus macrocarpa.  The shallow roots also make the trees susceptible to being toppled in high winds, or being uprooted by asymetrically-loaded snow during a wet but mild winter when the ground would be muddy instead of frozen.

 

As usual, plants that are not stressed—by drought, heat, cold, or poor drainage—are more resistant and resiliant. 

Variants

There are several dozen Leyland cypress cultivars, which vary mostly in foliage color, from blue to merely bluish to green to mild yellow or even strident yellow.  Vigor and habit are similar across the cultivars; there aren't any truly dwarf, weeping, or prostrate cultivars, although 'Relax' is reported to grow only to six or eight feet.

Availability

On-line.

Propagation

'Robinson's Gold' is propagated by cuttings; like all Leyland cypresses, it almost never sets fertile seeds.

Native habitat

x Cupressocyparis leylandii 'Robinson's Gold' was a rare self-sown seedling found in Belfast, Ireland, in 1962.  x Cupressocyparis leylandii itself was first noticed in 1888, on an estate in Wales owned by Christopher Leyland. 

 
 
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