The Sawara cypress is almost completely unknown to the general public though it has been grown in Finland since the early 1900s. It is a popular garden tree in its native Japan where, over the centuries, a huge range of selected forms has been produced. Some of these retain their juvenile needle form of foliage, like this ‘Squarrosa’ variety. It so confused western botanists that at first it was ascribed to its own genus Retinospora. Normally the cypresses have scale-like leaves, like the thujas, or arborvitae.
Old ’Squarrosa’ trees can be found growing at least in Helsinki and Lappeenranta. They are rather sparse in appearance, and the old brown needles remain long on the trees. This variety is at its best when young. Mustila’s specimens were planted in 1998 and have so far developed surprisingly dense foliage. The winter hardy cypresses are modest in size and slender, offering an excellent alternative to the larger-growing Canadian white cedar (Thuja occidentalis).