The Blue China fir is a striking conifer that breathes new life into the old-fashioned favorite, Cunninghamia. And although called China fir, this is, in truth, not a fir (Abies) at all, although it is from China.

The genus Cunninghamia is composed of one (perhaps two) species of evergreen coniferous trees in the cypress family, Cupressaceae. They are native to China, Taiwan and northern Vietnam, where they may reach 150 feet or more in height, dimensions not found in the cultivated trees, which are typically found topping out at 75 feet. The general shape is conical with gracefully tiered branches that are pendulous at the tips. Needles (quite sharp ones) are arranged in a flattened spiral around the stem with a pleasant  arch. The overall appearance is exotic and rich, but most especially for the Blue China fir - Cunninghamia lanceolata 'Glauca', a cultivar whose young foliage is bright whitish blue on the new season's growth. It is then very soft and inviting to touch but becomes more rigid and lance-like as it matures and turns a darker blue-green, also quite beautiful. But the new-growth blue is so vivid that it even shows up some of the best blue spruces, and Blue China firs grow in much warmer climes than any spruce.

This is one tree that will be a dominant subject in your garden and the center of attention. It is tolerant of soils and can withstand cold down to about 10 degrees Fahrenheit, though it does best in coastal-temperate areas. There is a nice Cunninghamia at Kew, Richmond, Surrey, and the tree does well throughout the UK as well as the US, New Zealand and Australia.

As usual, this special tree will not be found in the popular landscape nurseries but more likely in a specialty, mail-order, plant nursery.

Blue China fir


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