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Chronicles of a new conifer

chamaecyparis soft serve at garden adventuresIn the spring of 1997, at our family-owned nursery in south west Missouri, I happened upon an interesting mutation. Genetic mutations are not uncommon in the plant world, however; many are twisted, gnarled , deformed growths that require nurturing to bring out the beauty. This one was different, it was a graceful, soft textured growth that I immediately fell in love with. Like all love affairs, this one has had its trials and tribulations, but true love never fades. This is our story.

The original mutation was found in a block of Boulevard False Cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Boulevard’). Boulevard is powder-blue in color with “feathery” textured foliage. The mutation had the same blue coloration, but the foliage was fern-like and quite graceful. I separated the plant from the others for further evaluation, and in the early summer I took the first step in what would prove to be a long, frustrating, yet satisfying process. I took the first cuttings in the summer of 1997 and by the spring of the following year the original plant had mostly reverted back to Boulevard. In the summer of 1998, I took cuttings only from the cuttings I took in 1997, but some of them had lost the blue color and were a soft green. Over the next several years many cuttings were taken, many reversions were disposed of, and lots of changes had happened to the plant.

By the summer of 2003, after six years of reversions and further mutations, the plants had finally stabilized, but did not look like the mutations I first started with. At this point the plant was dark green in color, with the same graceful, fern-like foliage of the original mutation. They were conical in shape, and very compact, like its parent. Here in the Ozarks, Boulevard will rarely exceed 6’, and this plant showed the same habits. In our area many conifers struggle, we have heavy clay soils, hot summers, and high humidity. Our only native conifers are Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana) and Shortleaf Pine (Pinus echinata). A beautiful Spruce here is the exception, rather than the rule. Many people plant Dwarf Alberta Spruce (Picea glauca conica), but the failure and subsequent replacement rate is quite high. Blue-needled conifers, Boulevard included, struggle unless they are creatively placed. This plant gave me high hopes of an upright, dwarf conifer that could not only be grown successfully, but would thrive in our less that desirable conditions.

In August 2003 I contacted Mr. Tim Wood, head of product development at Spring Meadow Nursery, to see if they would be interested in trialing the plant. Spring Meadow Nursery, the Proven Winner people, specializes in the development and introduction of new plant varieties. Mr. Wood agreed to evaluate the plants and in April 2004 I sent approximately 25 plants to them to plant in their test gardens and evaluate them for how well they reproduce and grow on in the nursery. This was the nervous part for me, would anyone else see the beauty and usefulness of this plant?

I received word from Mr. Wood in May 2007 that Spring Meadow had decided to introduce the plant. It would be patented as Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Dow Whiting’ and trademarked as Soft Serve™ Chamaecyparis. Mr Wood said the name choice was a reference to the shape and texture of the plant, and that he wanted to provide a good positive feeling about the plant.

Ten years had passed, and a lot of sweat and tears had been shed, but it now seemed that the love and nurturing was going to result in a viable plant. In the spring of 2008, Spring Meadow Nursery officially released Soft Serve™ to its growers, and they are now available to fine garden centers coast to coast.

Technical Details

Soft Serve™ was trade marked and patented for release in Spring 2008. It's now available for sale at Garden Adventures Nursery. Soft Serve™ may also be available at other independent garden centers.

Soft Serve™ is a compact, conical Chamaecyparis with graceful, soft fern-like branching. The leaves are bright green on top and flecked with silver-blue on underside. A great substitute for Dwarf Alberta Spruce and pyramidal yews.

“Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Dow Whiting’, PP 20,883 (US) & PP 3636 (CAN) - FALSE CYPRESS”

Deer resistant.

Hardiness: USDA Zone 5, AHS 8
Season of Interest: All Year
Size: 6-10' Tall
Exposure: Sun to Part Shade

Soft Serve™ is a Proven Winners Color Choice® Shrub. Proven Winners plants are unsurpassed in terms of flowering, growth habit, disease resistance, and garden performance.

No other plant line goes through the same rigorous plant selection process, which takes 2-3 years and occurs at facilities in the U.S. and Canada, as well as at trial stations in Europe, South Africa, and Japan. Every Proven Winners variety is protected by U.S. and Canadian patents. What also separates Proven Winners is its viral control process, which is second to none.

Learn more about Proven Winners & their plant trials at Proven Winners.com