The na­ture of things

Ley­land cy­press

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country Notebook - Edited by Vic­to­ria Marston

FEW plants cause as much wrath as x Cu­pres­so­cy­paris ley­landii, the Ley­land cy­press. Like fire, it’s a good ser­vant, but a bad mas­ter. For decades, ley­landii has been the go-to hedger sought by those who re­quire a fast route to ever­green screen­ing, but an ea­ger­ness to plant a row isn’t al­ways matched by any readi­ness to trim the beast reg­u­larly. Bad feel­ing among neigh­bours emerges—even law­suits. Mean­while, the mon­ster car­ries on its up­wards and out­wards tra­jec­tory, gain­ing some 3ft in height each year and cre­at­ing dry in­fer­tile ground be­neath it.

The first of its type oc­curred, ac­ci­den­tally, in an ar­bore­tum in mid Wales in 1888, when two Amer­i­can species, Chamae­cy­paris nootkaten­sis and Cu­pres­sus macro­carpa (which would not have met in the wild), cross-pol­li­nated, cre­at­ing an un­usual in­ter­generic hy­brid. Nurs­eries rapidly adopted the vig­or­ous conifer, eas­ily grown from cut­tings.

Ley­land cy­press is of­ten vil­i­fied for be­ing use­less to wildlife, but that’s mere prej­u­dice. My neigh­bour’s trees are mas­sively over­grown (for­tu­nately, they’re on the north side, shad­ing their gar­den, not mine). All man­ner of birds roost and nest among the gloomy branches: black­birds, robins, wood pi­geons and dun­nock. Also gold­crests, whose tiny tin­kly-bell mu­sic rings out year-round in the tree­tops. Lady­birds and other in­sects hide in the cran­nies. Ley­landii has many draw­backs, but wildlife hin­drance isn’t one of them. KBH

Il­lus­tra­tion by Bill Dono­hoe

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