This section is from the book "The Gardener V3", by William Thomson. Also available from Amazon: The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener.
This new, and as far as is yet known small, genus, is so named from the resemblance of the species of which it is composed, both in habit of growth and general appearance, to their near allies the American Arborvitaes. With, the single exception of Borealis, which, though now believed by the most competent authorities to have its proper place among the Cypresses, is still popularly associated with this group, the species are natives of Japan; and though, only introduced to British gardens at intervals during the last twenty years, enough has been seen of them to prove their adaptability to our soils and climate, and their value as outdoor decorative shrubs and trees.
Thujopsis Borealis (the Nootka Sound Thvjopsis), also and more correctly called Cupressus Nutkaensis, is found wild in great abundance about Nootka Sound, and in various other localities on the north-west coast of North America. It was first introduced into Britain in 1851, and was described as forming in its native habitats a tall beautiful tree, of from 80 to 100 feet in height.
In cultivation in this country it is a straight-stemmed, conical bush, of a most symmetrical habit, densely furnished from the ground with spreading branches, abundantly divided into graceful plume-like branchlets, drooping slightly at the extremites. The leaves, which are short, imbricated, and thickly disposed on the branchlets, are of a dark glossy green colour, and sometimes, particularly when the plants are young, faintly glaucous on the under side. Of its merits as an ornamental tree it is impossible to speak too highly; its distinct, handsome appearance, freeness of growth in almost every variety of soil, and thorough hardiness in our severest winters and coldest situations, mark it as one of the most valuable acquisitions of recent years, and have already secured for it extensive admission into the most select shrubberies and pleasure-grounds. Though a most effective plant in mixed groups or in avenue rows, it is always seen to the best advantage when planted as a single specimen on a lawn, or any situation where, standing alone and free from contact with other plants, it is allowed to develop its beauties in form and colour to their fullest extent.
It will be found to grow most luxuriantly where the soil is a peaty loam, and rather moist than dry; and while shelter from frost is altogether unnecessary, it should not be exposed to violent winds.
Like many of the Cypresses and Thujas, this superb tree is variable in its appearance, and many distinct varieties may be detailed among seedlings. One of the most interesting.of these is that named varie-gata, which has its branchlets prettily tinted with a silvery or straw coloured variegation. It is a very desirable, but as yet a scarce, variety.
Indigenous to high but sheltered valleys in Japan, and frequently met with in cultivation in that country as well as in China, both as an ornamental tree and for its timber, which, from its closeness of grain and durability, is highly valued, and used for a great' variety of purposes. It is described as forming in Japan a lofty, handsome, conical tree, with vertical branches, gracefully drooping at the points; the branchlets numerous, much compressed, and abundantly clothed with flat scale-like leaves regularly imbricated, of a bright glossy green colour on the upper, and silvery on the under, surface.
This grand species was first sent to Britain in 1854; and having since been widely distributed, and exposed to the rigours of our winters in the open air without injury, its perfect hardiness is now undoubted; and though of slow growth while in a young state, it seems to improve in that respect with age; and there can be no question but that it will come to be regarded as one of our indispensable ornamental trees. As seen here it is a bushy conical shrub, broad in proportion to its height, the main stem slightly in advance of the branches while young, but more decidedly so in the older plants. It makes most progress in strong loamy or peaty soils, moderately moist, and prefers a shady situation.
A fine variegated variety of this species was sent home from Yeddo in Japan, in 1861, by Mr Fortune, who found it cultivated in gardens. This pretty plant has the branchlets more or less freely tinted with pale yellow. It has proved to be equally hardy and of as free growth as the parent, and is well worthy of a place in the most select collection.
Thujopsis Laetevirens (the Lycopod-like Thujopsis), sent home a few years ago by Mr Veitch from Japan, is a dwarf shrub, rarely found even in the most favourable circumstances to exceed 3 feet in height.
This beautiful little plant has a dense, broadly conical habit of growth; and though said to be specifically different, is in general aspect suggestive of a miniature form of Dolobrata. It is, however, so distinct, that the one can never be mistaken for the other. The branches are very slender, and are divided into numerous flat fan-like branchlets, abundantly clothed with tiny neatly-cut leaves of a warm green colour, arranged with the utmost regularity, giving it a remarkable resemblance to a tree Lycopod.
Like Dolobrata, it is of slow growth, and though quite hardy, should always be planted in a sheltered situation. It prefers a rich, deep, and moderately moist rather than a dry soil. As a neat bushy shrub for rockeries, or small beds where only plants of such habits are admissible, it has few superiors; and, as its merits become better known, it will doubtless be extensively planted in such places.
Thujopsis Standishii (Mr Standish's Thujopsis), named in compliment to Mr Standish of the Ascot Nurseries, was sent home from Japan in 1861 by Mr Fortune, who discovered it near Yeddo.
This very handsome species is very aptly described as having an appearance "midway between a Thujopsis and an Arborvitae." It has an erect conical style of growth, densely furnished with slender branches, much divided into flat Lycopod-like branchlets, drooping at the points. The leaves, which in shape and arrangement on the stems are very like those of Dolobrata, but much smaller, are light, or yellowish green above, assuming a deeper tint in winter, and slightly glaucous below.
It is here thoroughly hardy, and seems to be quite at home under similar conditions to the other species. Though only seen in this country in a small state, and as yet comparatively little known, there is much in its appearance to warrant the belief that it will make a grand specimen ornamental shrub, and to recommend its being planted where such is desirable. Hugh Fraser.