Magazine article Sunset

The Friendly and Graceful Hemlock, and Is Many Variations

Magazine article Sunset

The Friendly and Graceful Hemlock, and Is Many Variations

Article excerpt

Hikers and campers are likely to be familiar with native hemlocks. Although a few gardeners may use Western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) and mountain hemlock (T. mertensiana), the majority grow Canada hemlock (T. canadensis) or one of its garden forms. Nodding tips, gently drooping branchlets, and fine, soft, dark green needles make them among the most graceful of all conifers.

This friendly eastern American native can reach 100 feet in height in the Northwest, but in California gardens it is likely to reach tree size only in the fog belt and in the higher, moister mountains. Able to take profound cold. trees dislike dry winds (hot or cold), dry, poor soil, and alkaline soil and water.

On the other hand, many attractive variations--dwarf, weeping, or variegated--will thrive in partial or afternoon shade, neutral to acid oil, and shelter from winds. The smaller ones make excellent container plants or rock garden subjects. Best known of the variations is T.c. 'Pendula', also known as Sargent weeping hemlock. A low, broad plant usually 2 to 3 feet high and twice as wide, it resembles a soft green haystack; opened up, it shows a picturesque branch structure (above). …

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