The popularity of the Leyland Cypress as a “Living Fence” TM screen is indeed no coincidence. We see this hardy and attractive conifer form and shape itself into the coveted “Living Fence” TM in no time. The soft-needled leaves are medium green in color. We recommend planting the Leyland Cypress tree in full-sun locations if the growth rate is to be achieved. This hardy tree is pyramidal to cylindrical and can grow as much as 2-3 feet per year or more. Easy to care for but demands water in the hot months when young. These trees can grow very tall at maturity but can be pruned indefinitely to retain the desired shape.

While no plant is trouble-free, the Leyland Cypress tree can attract a few pests in the landscape. The Leyland is susceptible to bagworms. No preventative measures are necessary. Treatment is only required when the cocoons are detected. They start appearing around July 4th in the Mid-Atlantic region and are the size of a grain of rice. The preferred method of bagworm control is manually removing the cocoons and properly destroying them before they hatch. Otherwise, products containing BT are effective against the bagworm in this early stage. BT is a bacteria that attacks insects.

During the late 1970s, the Leyland was initially thought to be trouble-free. However, it has since been documented that they can have cankers, a small wound that leaks sap. In December 1998, at the State of Maryland Department of Pesticides lecture by Ethyl Dutkey, a Plant Pathologist, she discussed observing some infected plants. She noted that when properly cared for (water, fertilizer, etc.), they grew through the problem and became large, healthy plants. Therefore, I recommend no chemical treatments for this pathogen. Instead, a proper food and watering regime is best for a quick recovery.

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Fun Fact: as of May 2022, the tallest Leyland Cypress stands at ~ 130ft and is located on the Coedarhydyglyn estate in Cardiff, Wales, UK. The second largest resides in Leighton Village, Leighton, Wales, UK, at ~ 122ft.

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History of the Leyland Cypress

In 1845, Liverpool banker Christopher Leyland purchased Leighton Hall, in Montgomeryshire/Powys County, from the Corbett family of Shropshire. Then in 1847, he gave it to his nephew John Naylor (1813–1889) as a wedding present. John rebuilt the house and estate at a reputed cost of £275,000, plus another £200,000 on industrial farm technology. Naylor commissioned Edward Kemp, a pupil of Sir Joseph Paxton, to lay out the gardens. Thus, adding Redwoods, Monkey Puzzle Trees, and two disparate Pacific coast North American conifers planted near each other in the estate’s Park Wood:

The parent species would not likely cross in the wild, as their natural ranges are 400+ miles apart. However, in 1888, the hybrid cross occurred when the Nootka Cypress cones/flowers were fertilized by pollen from the Monterey Cypress.

John Naylor died the following year, so his son Christopher John Naylor (1849–1926) inherited Leighton Hall from his father in 1889. Christopher was a sea captain by trade who commanded the I.S.S. Enterprise. Then in 1891 he inherited the Leyland Entailed Estates, established under the will of his great-great-uncle upon the passing of his uncle, Thomas Leyland. His brother, John Naylor (1856–1906), then inherited Leighton Hall. Christopher changed his surname to Leyland and moved to Haggerston Castle in Northumberland. He continued hybridization and named the first clone variant ‘Haggerston Grey‘. However, in 1911, the reverse hybrid of the Monterey Cypress cones with pollen from the Nootka produced the ‘Leighton Green.’

This hybrid has since arisen on nearly 20 separate occasions, always by open natural pollination. Showing the two species are readily compatible and closely related. Although, as a hybrid, the Leyland Cypress is sterile. Therefore, all the trees we now see have resulted from cuttings originating from those few plants.

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