A Statuesque Evergreen

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012 by Jenny Watts
    • There’s still time to plant spring-flowering bulbs, but don’t delay. Daffodils, tulips and hyacinths are still available.
    • Spray for peach leaf curl with copper sulfate. Peach and nectarine trees may suffer from this fungus disease without a protective spray.
    • Clean up rose bushes by removing spent flowers and raking up old leaves, but wait until February for heavy pruning.
    • Feed the birds this winter and enjoy the pleasure of their company. Bird feeders come in many styles and make wonderful gifts.

Incense Cedar

One of the finest conifers for large gardens is our grand, native California evergreen, the Incense Cedar (Calocedrus decurrens). Its rich green foliage is aromatic with scale-like leaves that grow on pendulous branches. In the fall, it is ornamented with miniature, urn-shaped, reddish-brown cones that make a subtle contrast to the green leaves.

Another striking feature, particularly noticeable on mature trees, is the soft-textured, shredding, cinnamon-colored bark on their wide, tapering trunks. People sometimes mistake the Incense Cedar for a redwood tree because of the similarity of shredding bark.

Frequently seen as a single tree or in small groves in the Coast Range, this evergreen will grow anywhere from sea-level to 8,000 feet. Mature trees vary from 75 to 100 feet tall with trunks from 2 to 4 feet in diameter.

Since they are so slow growing, Incense Cedars can be used in the landscape. Young trees are very decorative, with a dense, narrow, columnar form. They make a handsome screen or hedge and are an attractive background for mixed borders. Older specimens make a beautiful evergreen background for small flowering trees such as redbuds and dogwoods.

Incense Cedar can also be planted near walls since it has a well-behaved root system. With foliage that extends down to the ground, it is good for hiding areas that are unattractive, or for a windbreak. In the landscape it typically grows 30 to 50 feet tall and 8 to 10 feet wide.

This tree is tolerant of a wide range of conditions. Shade tolerant when young, it thrives in full sun or partial shade in moist, well-drained soil. It is drought tolerant when established and will tolerate marginal soils.

For best results, but trees in 5-gallon pots. Mulch newly planted trees with a deep, organic mulch of compost or bark. Water them regularly through the dry weather until established.

Once established, water trees deeply and infrequently – 3 to 5 times per summer. Incense cedars are practically pest free, and need no fertilizer or pruning.

These trees will attract many birds to your property as they provide good food and shelter for sparrows, hermit thrushes, siskins, flickers, nuthatches and others.

John Muir found the Incense cedar particularly beautiful. He said, “no waving fern-frond in shady dell is more unreservedly beautiful in form and texture, or half so inspiring in color and spicy fragrance.”

This fine tree is attractive year-round and will add beauty and stature to your landscape or property.