Maybe I watched too many cartoons as a kid (not possible), but I have a thing for weird looking plants. Shaggy, weepy, contorted, twisted, it’s all good to me. Hinoki cypress (Chamecyparis obtusa ‘Gracilis’) scratches that itch, but it still has enough “normal” looking structure that it works in most landscapes. It’s a lovely dark green, so it doesn’t tend to scare off customers, either.
According to my plant nerd resources, “Hinoki” means “fire tree” in Japanese. If accurate, I can totally see it. If you did a quick flipbook of photos of similarly sized Hinoki cypresses, it would look like dancing flames. Hinoki cypress likes full sun to dappled shade, but I can tell you that it will actually grow in pretty deep shade. It won’t get much bigger than how it was at planting, and the foliage will thin, but you’ll end up with an even funkier looking tree with peeling, reddish brown bark.
In the typical suburban landscape, ‘Gracilis’ Hinoki cypress will eventually grow to 15 to 20 feet tall and a 6 to 10 foot spread, but don’t go buying that birdfeeder that hangs off a 10 foot rope. It’s a slow growing tree so it’s going to take some time to get there. Your landscape design will have plenty of time to fill in around it.
This cultivar was developed in Japan a long time ago. In the 1860s it was brought to Europe by Phillip Franz von Siebold, a German botanist. I love plants like this that must have seemed so unbelievably exotic when they first arrived in Europe. People like you and me have been nerding out over this for a long time, which I think is super cool.