Protect Your Hedge from Snow

Heavy snow falls have already happened – and well into the south, where they are much rarer. We can guarantee that right now there are gardeners staring at hedges that have been damaged – either a little, or seriously – by that snow, and other gardeners looking in trepidation at their hedges, wondering if all those years of care are about to be undone. So let’s consider what, if anything, can be done to help a damaged hedge recover, and what to do next time,or in anticipation of future damage.

Help – the Snow Smashed my Hedge!

Let’s start with the worst-case situation, your hedge is looking caved in, and you can see broken branches – it looks really bad. The first step is to pull as much snow as you can off the hedge, and then give it a little time to see how much it bounces back. As anyone who has shoveled a driveway knows, snow is heavy stuff, and when it lodges in the branches of your hedge it really pulls on it, so that you might be seeing sections that have caved in, or branches pulled out of the hedge. A rake or broom is the best way to remove the snow and try not to tear more at any branches while you do it. This is easiest to do when the snow is fresh, so once you have the driveway and paths cleaned, turn your attention to your hedge.

Along the top of a hedge is a spot where you will often see a big buildup, and even if your hedge is not damaged, removing some snow before it turns to ice, and remains in place, only to be added to be the next fall, is a good thing to do too, even if you have no damage visible.

Now you need to wait, and really, there is not much point in doing anything until spring, when all the snow has melted, and no more is expected. If your hedge is old, and there is a significant amount of damage,then almost certainly the best course of action is to remove it all and replant.If you choose a fast-growing hedge plant you will be looking at a good hedge is just a few years, so don’t feel too saddened.

Some people try cutting back, but this simply doesn’t work,and is a waste of effort. It will work fine for a broadleaf evergreen hedging plant, like holly, privet or laurel, and also for a few conifer evergreens,notable yew (Taxus). These plants can re-sprout from old stems, and often they will regenerate themselves in just one or two seasons. But for plants like cypress, arborvitae, juniper, and even our old friend Thuja Green Giant, re-sprouting is not going to happen. These plants are unable to produce new growth from stems that don’t already have green parts.Cutting back to stumps or hoping that broken branch that is leaving a giant hole will re-sprout, is never going to work – really, it isn’t.

If the damage is limited to branches being pulled out of the hedge, but not broken, things are much more hopeful. These can often be tied back to other branches, and once new growth begins, and you have had one or two trimmings, everything will probably look fine. A word of warning though – never tie ropes tightly around the stems of hedge plants, or any other plants for that matter. As the stem grows the rope will cut into them, and in a few years everything above the rope will die. Always use open loops, with plenty of room left in them. Threading a section of hosepipe onto the rope, to cradle the stem, is a good idea too, or movement of a rope under tension can cut into the bark.

But My Neighbors Hedge is Fine!

This is perhaps the most annoying thing of all – the same snow storm, and your hedge is flattened, while next door everything looks perfect. There will be some good reasons for this, and if you are now going to plant a replacement hedge, here is how to reduce enormously your chances of losing that one too in a few years.

  • Start trimming while the hedge is young. Many people make the mistake of waiting until their hedge is fully grown, before starting to trim. This creates a weakly-structured hedge, which can easily break and fall apart. Instead, begin almost immediately to remove an inch or two regularly. If you do that your hedge develops lots of internal branches, giving it has a dense structure that resists breakage.
  • Trim in fall. A neat,smooth hedge will not hold snow, but a rough one, with lots of tufts and branches sticking out, certainly will. That last trim in early fall, leaving enough time for a small amount of new growth, makes for a hedge that will shed the snow from it sides, and won’t accumulate much at all. Look around and you will see that it is almost always the untidy, untrimmed hedges that break apart during a heavy snow storm.
  • Slope the sides inwards.This has lots of other benefits, but for snow protection it keeps the top as narrow as possible, so that snow is more likely to be shed and fall to the ground,rather than build up on top. As well, it keeps the lower parts healthy and green, and discourages your hedge from growing big and fat on top – a sure-fire recipe for winter snow disaster.
  • Keep the top rounded.While a square-cut top might look very formal and elegant, a rounded top is much safer. Keep it as narrow as possible too. This can often mean getting around the other side and trimming the top from there too, but the point is to achieve a narrow top that has rounded edges. This creates a flowing surface that encourages the snow to fall off, rather than build up.

Replace with a Vigorous Hedging Plant

And now for the plug! If you do have to replace that hedge,consider using Thuja Green Giant this time around. Proven to be the fastest hedging evergreen available, your new hedge will be ready in just a few years,and with its resistance to deer, drought, salt and diseases, Thuja Green Giant is going to be a great hedge for years to come, especially if you follow these tips to reduce the risk of snow damage this time around.

7 Ways to Use Thuja Green Giant in Your Garden

Most of the millions of plants sold of Thuja Green Giant as planted in hedges, but while that is an important use, there are other things you can do with this great evergreen to add useful and attractive features to your garden. Some of the following things might be issues or problems you have, so here are some useful ideas that show just how versatile this plant is.

7 Ways to Use Thuja Green Giant in Your Garden

  • Foundation Planting – perfect for those taller spaces between windows and in angles
  • Mixed Windbreaks – ideal evergreen ‘spine’ for a windbreak of trees and shrubs
  • Avenues – bring some class to your driveway with an avenue of upright columns
  • Screens – always dense and neat without any trimming needed
  • Lawn Specimens – looks lush and green all year round
  • Focal Points and Accents – vertical ‘exclamation marks’ catch the eye and make it linger
  • Formal Hedges – the classic green wall that turns your garden into an outdoor room

Foundation Planting

Foundation planting is the plants – both evergreen and deciduous – that you place close to and around your home. The overall purpose is to visually tie the house to your lot – so it flows into the surrounding garden, rather than sitting in a blank space. When choosing plants for this purpose we often need smaller plants, that will fit between windows. Often, though, there are places such as the angle between two walls, or blank wall areas two stories tall, where taller plants are needed. Since there are often windows on either side, these plants need to be upright and not too broad. Thuja Green Giant can be the perfect choice for such a spot, especially in a home that is at least two stories tall, or that sits on tall foundations. Because it grows fast, it will soon reach to the second floor, and then the roof, screening all that harsh wall surface, and reaching up from the surrounding plants. Because it stays narrow, even when it rises above the eaves it won’t overhand the roof, and become a potential hazard, the way many trees can, and being evergreen it looks great all year round.

Mixed Windbreaks

If you have a larger property, especially in a rural or semi-rural area, exposure to strong winds and storms can really inhibit what you do in your garden. A solid screen is often not the answer – it can cause wind-tunneling, and itself be damaged in storms. Better is to filter the winds, so they slow down, drop their snow in a storm, and this gives you much better protection. A barrier that is about 50% solid gives the best results, and a windbreak 35 feet tall will effectively protect a zone 500 feet deep – the size of most large lots. A good windbreak has a central core of tall evergreens, flanked on the both sides with smaller deciduous trees and shrubs. A good variety of plants paints a much more attractive picture than a solid screen of one plant, and it also becomes a valuable refuge for birds and wildlife. Thuja Green Giant is the perfect choice for that central spine – because it grows so fast it will soon give valuable protection not only to the garden, but to the other plants in the windbreak. You will be amazed at how much improvement there is in the value of your garden, and the range of plants you can successfully grow, once a windbreak has been in place for a few years. A row of Thuja Green Giant, spaced 12 feet apart, makes the perfect spine for your windbreak, and gets it off to a flying start.

Avenues

If you have a long driveway, nothing gives it more of an air of importance and even grandeur, than flanking it with a row of trees. Imagine a double row of stately green columns along that driveway – a beautiful sight. Thuja Green Giant is a terrific choice for this purpose. Space the plants between 15 and 20 feet apart, depending on how long your driveway is, and keep them in facing pairs, even as you go around the curves, where the outside row of the curve will need to be further apart than the inside one. Be careful to set them well back from the driveway – at least 6 feet, and 10 is better, so that it doesn’t become a narrow tunnel once they grow tall. Keeping them well spread out will increase the sense of space and grandness and give you an entrance of real quality.

Screens

If trimming hedges is not your thing, Thuja Green Giant is great for more informal, unclipped screens. Maybe you want to hide an ugly view, or you need privacy from surrounding buildings or homes. Since Thuja Green Giant stays neat and upright even with no clipping, it’s the perfect choice for an evergreen screen that does the job 365 days of the year. Since it grows so fast you won’t have to wait long at all for a good outcome. For a screen the best planting is a double row, with the plants in one row facing the spaces in the other – a zigzag arrangement. Allow 5 feet between the two rows, and 8 to 12 feet between the plants in each row, depending on how dense you want to screen to become – it doesn’t have to be solid when you use double rows.

Lawn Specimens

On a smaller lawn, a traditional shade tree can become too wide. Thuja Green Giant will always look lush and green all year round, and it makes an attractive alternative. On a larger lawn you can add a few among the trees, so that the area has more visual interest when the leaves have fallen from the trees.

Focal Points and Accents

If all the plants in your garden are rounded, the eye tends to rush over them, and you don’t notice much. When we meet an upright accent, we stop for a moment, and that helps us take in more of what we see. The result? Your garden is suddenly more visually interesting and satisfying. Accents placed at the end of lines of site, perhaps between parallel beds, brings the eye to a full stop, and effectively completes the scene. In small gardens these accents can be a single plant, and in larger ones, groups of three are very effective. Around your home you can put emphasis on the front door with a pair of evergreens on either side – make sure you space them well out, so that they don’t end up crowding the door space.

Formal Hedges

Nothing creates the ‘room outside’ like a clipped hedge. For taller hedges nothing beats Thuja Green Giant. It gets to the height you want quicker than anything else will, and it clips beautifully into a dense green wall. To mark the boundaries of your property, or to create internal spaces in a larger garden, plant your hedges as the first job, so they are well-established by the time the rest of your planting starts to mature.

 

As you can see, Thuja Green Giant is far more than a hedging plant. Utilize its fast growth in lots of ways around your garden – for speed, toughness, all-year-green and trouble-free growth, it simply can’t be beaten.