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On Gardening: Fall in love with Patti Faye the most exquisite deodar cedar

Norman Winter, Tribune News Service on

Published in Gardening News

It's funny about 4 1/2 years ago I wrote an article titled "Deodar Cedar Simply Unbeatable in the Winter Landscape." That still holds true, but I would like to suggest a new title "Patti Faye Deodar Cedar Simply Unbeatable in the Landscape."

Every day as I come into the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens and as I leave I watch Patti Faye which is the most unbelievable Christmas tree shaped conifer for the southern garden. I'll admit I have been partial to the Japanese fir, Abies firma as the most exquisite Christmas tree for the south but not anymore.

Despite having a heritage connected to Afghanistan, Patti Faye is a Southern Girl from Mobile, Alabama. Ralph Rushing discovered it in 2000 from a group of seedlings, and he named it after his wife, Patti. When you have a classic conifer with outstanding performance in places like Mobile and Savannah, Ga., then you know its keeper.

Patti Faye is cold hardy through zones 7 which represents a broad swath of the country. If you live in a colder zone, then you may want to Shalimar, known for extra cold hardiness. Pattie Faye, however, has stolen my heart with its blue needles and horizontal branching habit.

Most deodar cedars you see have pendulous branching which is ever so graceful, but this is what makes Patti Faye so incredible. Also called Himalayan cedar it does have the ability to reach 40-50 feet with a 30-foot spread.

Conifers or cone-bearing trees or shrubs are the ones that when everything else goes brown or dormant, really stand out. They are so important to the winter landscape giving us that needed evergreen structure. Of course with Patti Faye, this foliage or needles are steel blue.

Deodars are still mostly sold generically, which is ok but keep your eyes open for the named selections like Patti Faye, Aurea which is smaller, reaching to 30 feet and has golden yellow new foliage and Pendula that has long, weeping branches and grows no taller than 10 feet. Don't forget Shalimar which released by the Arnold Arboretum is known for superior cold hardiness for landscapes in zone 6.

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But another variety we have in the garden that is a most pleasant surprise is Snow Sprite. This variety is a dwarf weeping type that literature would make you think it would be happier further north. Its origination is Vancouver, Canada but has been wonderful in Savannah. This white tipped deodar in colder climates reaches 4- to- 6 feet after 10 years; we have reached that parameter in less than four in Savannah. I expect the weeping characteristics will now become more pronounced.

Deodar cedars are relatively fast growing for the first decade or two, reaching as high as 30 feet in its first 10 years. I think it is most beautiful at this stage. Between years 10 and 20, it will slowly broaden at the top. Older specimens generally show some top dieback, but don't let this keep you from experiencing 10 to 20 years of deodar heaven in-your landscape.

They perform best in full sun and are drought tolerant once established. This tree likes well-drained locations. Most deodar cultivars will grow into large, handsome specimen trees that need plenty of room you'll want these in the back of a large landscape so they can be seen in their entirety.

(Norman Winter is director of the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens at the Historic Bamboo Farm, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension, and author of "Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South" and "Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden." Follow him at: @CGBGgardenguru.)

(c)2017 Norman Winter

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