I, too, admit to thinking my little redwood was dying last winter when all the needles turned brown and fell off. I learned later that this "Gold Rush" cultivar is deciduous, a surprise to Californians accustomed to coast redwoods, aka Sequoia sempervirens.
If you have friends who love to garden, this tree is a wonderful gift. I owe mine to my brother, the Ardent Gardener and the Groundskeeper at www.yourgardenshow.com. Thanks, Mark!
* Metasequoia Glyptostroboides fossils from a million years ago have been found in Japan; long thought to be extinct, the tree was rediscovered in China in 1944. Fast growing, they will reach 50' in 20 years, and eventually 100 feet.