THE GREAT and sensible substitute for the glaucous Italian cypress is the gray-leaved red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) called "Skyrocket."
I can hardly think of a greater treasure than this juniper, which is hardy, admirably happy with our climate, and at 8 or 9 feet is only a few inches in diameter through the foilage - less than a foot.
For a sharp pencil-outline accent it is superior to any other plant I know.
Still, it is not a cypress, of course. It is every bit as beautiful, and a good bit more glaucous, but it does not have that dusky look about it, and it has no immemorial heritage of human affection.
Sometimes I think we never learn, or only very slowly, so I am about to buy another Italian cypress, despite my knowledge it will never really "do" up here. In this same climatic zone, I have on several occasions planted the Italian cypress with dismal results:
For about three years they flourish mightily and I say, "What's all this stuff about the cypress being so difficult?" Then one winter it topples right over when the earth gets sopping, and I prop it up again. Next winter the same thing happens. After about twice, the cypress starts to sulk and die.
Well, I have several times thought, that was an accident. I have planted them on three different occasions over a period of years. And I knew a garden in which there was an alley of these cypresses and they were dandy for some years, and then one winter they all toppled over and never recovered.
So I see no point planting them. Unless, like me, you get over the bitterest disappointments without the least upset.
Sometimes the gardener gets a notion that does not go away. We have all run into people who want a grove of banana trees and never minds the climate here, because that image is in their heads and nothing else really satisfies them.
I keep thinking of pearch trees in bloom with cypresses, reflected in a basin or pool. Once I was at the battlefield at Shiloh (not for the critical engagement, however) when the peach orchard was in bloom, as indeed it was on the day of the battle, though the water itself was not red when I saw it.
In Persia, for some centuries now, they have gone quite to pieces with the combination of peaches and other fruit trees blooming with cypress. So what with one thing and another the cypress and peach tree combination is quite stuck in my brain and does not go away; hence this fourth attempts.
one good thing about the cypress, it is never going to get too large. In a garden it is always a question which is the greater sorrow with a tree, for it not to grow or for it to grow and grow out of bounds.
Perhaps I should say that I already have a couple of "Skyrocket" jumpers, and they will probably still be around long after the cypress is gone.
It strikes me that the bulbs of the meadow saffrons or colchicums (which resemble giant crocuses five inches high) are larger than usual this year at stores, and somewhat cheaper than in the past couple of years.
When they bloom in October outdown, I always think now why do we not grow a lot more of these than we do. But in spring, the big coarse leaves are in eyesore, and they flop about taking more space than seems reasonable, and that is why gardeners show restraint.
But in grass not too rough, at the edge of some trees, they are handsome in fall and not too objectionable in spring. Once I planted a good many varieties of colchieum, but did not see as much difference among them as I had hoped.
Spring-blooming bulbs are the main strain on the gardening budget now. After a few years (beginners will be glad to hear) the excitement continues, but the greed abates. I can go two years in a row without buying much.