Mark Griffiths Inspiring Plants

Chamaecyparis obtusa nana is an old variety and has a different origin from the tennis ball forms. In it’s true form it is a beautiful plant with very dark, almost black foliage. It is rare and often C.o. nana gracilis is substituted for it. I managed to find a plant from a specialist nursery, even they had a problem finding it. It is still young and has yet to really show it’s beauty. First two pictures on left.

There are many forms of Nana, most are a lot bigger than it – but C. o. Nana Densa is smaller (three on the right)

Cryptomeria japonica cultivars.  I was always fond of Cryptomeria japonica vilmoriniana. It has been popular forever and recently I picked up a plant at a garden centre. It’s more dwarf than miniature and a good garden plant here in the UK. It remains very dense as it grows and in winter may turn a purplish brown.First three images on left.

 Cryptomeria japonica Tenzan (sometimes written as Tensan) is a tiny form. It should turn purplish in the winter, my plant hasn’t – that could be because it is still young or maybe it is yet to get cold enough.Last two images.

Miniature and Dwarf Conifers. There is something restful about looking at my very small, very green collection of miniature conifers. I was first enthused in my teens by reading Royton Heath was lyrical about them, particularly the smaller forms of the Hinoki cypress, Chamaecyparis obtusa. Alas it was hard even then to find the truly dwarf conifers, although things like Abies balsamea “hudsonia”, Picea mariana nana, Juniperus communis compressa and Cryptomeria japonica vilmoriniana were pretty much available everywhere. I did manage to visit the Wansdyke nursery in the 70s but even there I was disappointed. The one really nice plant I managed to pick up there was the true Chamaecyparis obtusa nana. It moved with me several times in a pot but after about 30 years succumbed to drought. It was a shame but frankly it hadn’t been in good condition for probably 15 years.
More recently I’ve found some specialist suppliers and have collected a few very nice plants.

Click on images for a larger picture.

Tsuga canadensis cultivars. Recently I’ve discovered the joy of the miniature forms of Tsuga canadensis. They have bright green new growth in the spring and look quite lovely. So far I have Minuta (two on the left) and Abbott’s Pygmy (three on right).

First two left, C. obtusa Bassett. Next Chilworth, last two on right are Stoneham.

AboveI also have J.R which was raised by Joe Reis in the US. This plant is sometimes called in error “junior”. So far it seems similar to the tennis ball forms.

Chamaecyparis obtusa cultivars. There is a group of C. obtusa varieties called the “tennis ball Cypresses”. These arose from a plant of C.obtusa nana gracilis which set seed for a number of years at Red Lodge Nursery (just outside of Southampton, UK). This happened “some years before the First World War” – I haven’t seen anything more precise than that. It’s unusual for a dwarf(ish) variety to set seed and when it does it usually reverts to the usual sized tree. However, the seed produced plants which are among the slowest and smallest of all conifers. Many were named at Red Lodge and some unnamed seedlings were sent to the US where they were then named.

The “tennis ball cypresses” include the varieties Caespitosa, Minima, Bassett, Chilworth, Juniperoides, and Stoneham. They can suffer if they freeze with water in the dense branchlets so the recommendation is to give most of the really small forms greenhouse protection. I grow mine in a shady frame and cover them if it is going to get really cold. They could probably take more sun but so far they seem fine.

First two left, C. obtusa Juniperoides. The next three are Minima.