File this under “Ignorant Mistakes with Big Consequences.” This is my view from the kitchen window to the east across my back yard.
A number of years ago, a garden designer put these Leyland cypress, ×Cupressocyparis leylandii (hybrid of Cupressus macrocarpa, Monterey cypress × Chamaecyparis nootkatensis, Alaskan cedar), in a garden plan for privacy screening at the back fence line. Although I didn’t follow much from that plan, eager to have quick screening I planted these. These were about 6 feet tall at planting 5 years ago, with their leader tips barely reaching the top of the fence. Now they are about 16 feet tall.
March 2010 and May 2013:
I planted these before I knew much about gardening, and the garden center tags stated simply that they would attain a height of 20 feet. I now know that these can get to be 60 feet or taller, which is way out of scale for a typical back yard planting. Though I am not a sun lover, I don’t want to completely block a section of the sky from view, especially toward the east! In addition, I don’t like the effect of a big dark blob caused by a monotypic planting, as I have three of these lined up.
Each time I gaze out there I have a growing feeling of dread mixed with regret. It’s hard to even appreciate the attractive flat sprays of foliage, as my eye interprets their reaching out gesture as “they’re coming to get me.”
I do try to appreciate the visual backdrop they provide for contrasting foliage like the Fatsia, the katsura or my baby ‘Edith Bogue’ magnolia.
As much as I hate to go back to square one with the greening and screening in that section of the yard, I think I am going to have to
remove these ask my husband to Pretty Please dig these out. He suggests topping and trimming as a hedge, but this is just not my style. If you can take it, have a peek at these butchered specimens on the Desert Northwest blog. My brain just will *not* stop reviewing replacement ideas (all evergreen): wax myrtle, Cryptomeria, Ceanothus, Osmanthus, evergreen magnolia… Any chance I can post to Craigslist and have someone come dig out a monstrously mature hedge planting?
Habitat value? The sight of this non-native European starling perched at the top doesn’t help with the growing negative feelings I have.
Just down the street at Green Bean Books at NE 16th and Alberta, all but one tree in a closely planted row have just been removed for an outdoor space remodel and ADA accessibility project. I’m not 100% sure this is Leyland cypress, but it looks to be.
I estimated the height at about 35 feet. It’s really hard to imagine it at double this height. Maybe it’s OK as a specimen planting. Would it look weird to limb it up and plant some other things around it? I wonder if the root system allows space for woody plants close to it? The bald section along one side is due to very closely spaced planting in the original row.
So, in short — don’t try to take the quick route to privacy screening and make the same mistake I did. I don’t recommend this tree for a standard 50 x 100 foot lot. If you have rural acreage, different story. Clemson University cooperative extension has a useful link with a good description of Leyland cypress and ideas for alternatives.