Fifteen years ago I bought a young Deodar cedar at a charity auction. I knew nothing about Cedrus deodara, but it looked pretty. And cedars grow well on the west coast of BC, right?
Turns out this species is a true cedar, unlike our native Western redcedar (which is actually a cypress). Deodars come from the Himilayas and are the national tree of Pakistan. That, and the fact that they can grow to almost 200 feet with a trunk up to 10 feet in diameter, should have tipped us off that this tree was…well…not perfectly suited to our little patch of paradise here on the Gulf Islands.
It sat in its pot for a couple of years until we moved to a larger property. Then, figuring we could prune to keep it in check, and that it would add a little privacy between our house and the neighbours, we planted it – about 40 feet from our kitchen window. Oh how naive we were.
It’s grown profusely: the drooping lower branches now extend in a circumference of about 65 feet, pretty much obliterating any view to that side of our yard. We’ve kept the tree reasonably short by topping it a couple of times – with difficulty – but systematic pruning it is a challenge to say the least.
The Deodar does have its charms, though. Those spiny needles are perfect for catching raindrops, and when early morning precipitation is followed by sunshine, the view from our window is of hundreds of sparkling diamonds adorning a series of long, graceful green arcs.
Moments like that have endeared the Deodar to us, and our animal friends also seem to love it. The lower limbs reach down to the lawn, forming a drier and very private shelter for the towhees, sparrows and juncos that rush in and out of those dark recesses. And the tree provides a handy separation scheme for our resident deer family whenever someone needs a “time out”: on opposite sides of those dense, impenetrable branches, they can simply ignore each other.
Well suited to the Gulf Islands? Probably not – but this Himilayan giant seems to be working for us.