Winter Care of Evergreen Hedges

Winter is a difficult time in the garden, especially if you live in colder regions, although even in warmer areas sudden cold snaps can wreak havoc, as happened in the South recently. Snow, cold winds, and in warmer areas periods of dryness, can all damage hedges and destroy the careful work and nurturing of years. So taking preventative steps is always a worthwhile investment of time, and with just a little effort and attention we can make the difference between a hedge that comes through winter looking perfect, and one that needs lots of attention and time to come back again.

Tips for Winter Care of Hedges and Evergreens

  • Keep the soil moist, by watering through fall, and during winter dry spells
  • Protect the foliage, especially with new hedges, by using an anti-desiccant spray
  • Keep salt at bay, with screening placed away from the hedge, not right on it
  • Use a high-potash fertilizer, this element protects from dryness by thickening the cell walls

Water Your Hedge in Winter

In every region, watering is the single best thing you can do for your hedge. In cold areas, where the ground freezes for periods of time, and even all winter long, evergreen plants find it difficult to draw up water from the frozen ground – imagine drinking a glass of frozen water. This means that the foliage, which is still losing water to the atmosphere, especially when dry or cold winds blow, can desiccate and become dried out. This may not be noticeable until spring, when new growth should begin, and instead the warmer days complete the drying process of these already-dead branches. This effect, called ‘winter burn’, is seen not only on hedges but on other evergreens as well, so while watering your hedge, water your specimen evergreens too.

Watering helps because if the ground is very moist it takes more cold input to freeze it, and some un-frozen water will remain available to your trees. Since the foliage will survive best if it is fully plumped-up with water when the ground freezes, you should begin this winter watering in late fall, and continue until the ground freezes. Especially with younger, newer hedges and evergreens, mulch over the soil will also help, not just to conserve the moisture you have added, but to keep the soil warmer and reduce the intensity of freezing.

In warmer areas watering issues can also arise, as long dry stretches are common in winter, and just because the temperatures are lower doesn’t mean the ground is not drying out. It is easy to be caught unawares when cold sunny days draw lots of moisture from evergreen foliage, and directly from the ground. Check around the base of your hedges and evergreens weekly, and if the soil seems dry, give it all a good soaking.

Speaking of soaking, it is also important to water correctly. Standing for a few minutes with a hose spraying is unlikely to be very effective, since you want the water to penetrate deeply into the soil, not just dampen the surface. A slow-running hose pipe, or a soaker hose of some type, will be far more effective in re-filling the deeper water reservoirs in your soil. When putting in a hedge it makes lots of sense to install a simple watering system at the same time, which can even be connected to a timer. You don’t need a full-scale irrigation system – just a trickle hose or ‘leaky pipe’

In colder areas you probably won’t need to water during winter, but watch out when early spring arrives, as then too the soil can dry rapidly as the temperatures rise, especially if it has been a dry winter. Remember to keep checking until your full spring and summer schedule becomes established.

Use Anti-Desiccant Sprays

It is surprising that these sprays, used by professionals for decades, are not used much more by gardeners. Perhaps it is the distrust of spraying, but in fact these materials are all-natural, and so they are completely safe to use. They contain an ingredient called ‘pinene’, which is extracted from pine trees cut for lumber. When mixed with water this material forms a giant network of molecules that becomes a water-proof film across the foliage it is sprayed on. It is this coating that greatly reduces water loss from the foliage, and that makes it so useful. On evergreens in winter, especially if you have planted them recently, it can make an enormous difference, keeping them green and healthy even in difficult and exposed locations. Spray shortly before the ground freezes, and if there are periods above freezing during the winter, especially if it rains, then try to get out and re-spray, as heavy rain will weaken or remove the coating. It is basically invisible once applied, so it is much more attractive, and more effective too, than the old-fashioned burlap wrapping still seen in some colder areas.

Protect your plants from salt spray and runoff

Salt is the enemy of plants. It sucks moisture out of the foliage, and out of the roots too if it enters the soil. Luckily its use is declining, and there are better alternatives for your driveway, especially if you have a hedge alongside it. You can’t control what your city puts down though, so if you have hedges along the roadside, you can easily have them severely damaged by salt drift blown up by traffic or high winds. The best protection is to catch it before it lands on your plants, and the simplest method is to put up a burlap screen, placed a foot or so in front of the hedge, and a little taller. This will trap the salty spray and hold it away from the foliage. A common mistake is to hang the burlap right on the hedge, but if you think about it for a moment, by doing that you are holding a wet, salty cloth against the leaves, which is at least as damaging as doing nothing at all. That gap is important, so make sure you create it when putting up your screening.

Use High-potash Fertilizer in Fall

You won’t see it labelled with that name, but if you read the label you will see a relatively high number at the end of that formula of three numbers showing the composition. These fertilizers are often sold as ‘fall-fertilizer’ for evergreens, and their secret ingredient is the element potassium, often called potash. This is held in the plant sap and causes the cells to take up extra water. Not only does this protect against drying out, it stimulates the cell walls to thicken, so that water is lost more slowly through them. As well, the extra elements in the sap makes it less likely to freeze. Together, all these effects reduce the risk of winter damage to the foliage. Although not really a winter tip, as it should have been done already, it is something to think about for next fall, to give your evergreens the protection they need.

Q&A on Thuja Green Giant

Thuja Green Giant is the number-one choice evergreen for hedges, screens and specimens, so lots of people have lots of questions about this plant. Here are some of the common ones – with answers.

Question: How fast does Thuja Green Giant Grow?

Answer: Apart from the obvious answer, ‘very fast’, we are lucky to have some real research to tell us this, which is by far the most common question about this plant. Luckily, we have some accurate information from research at the University of Arkansas a few years back. They planted some small trees from 1-gallon pots 10-feet apart in some fields at three different spots across the state, in three climate zones, and measured their growth over 7 years. At the warmest site, in zone 8a, the trees were 11 ½ feet tall by the end of the trial. Even in the coldest location, a windy spot in zone 6b, they were just a few inches shy of 10 feet tall. The fastest growth happened in the second, third and fourth years after planting. The plants grew as much as 3 feet a year during those fastest years and at the warm site the trees added 5 feet in a single year, the third, which had ideal growing weather.

These plants were in full sun, and they had drip irrigation, but only limited fertilizer, so you can see that with good care, in good soil in a warmer zone, you can grow a respectable 12-foot hedge in 7 years, and in even less time starting with bigger plants. Remember, don’t expect to see a whole lot of growth the year you plant, but you will see some big changes in the following few years!

Question: How big does Thuja Green Giant Grow?

Answer: Left without trimming, in good soil, Thuja Green Giant will grow over 30 feet tall, and it will be between 8 and 12 feet wide. This is a plant for taller hedges, or for untrimmed screening, so be sure to leave enough room for it. It is important to plant a screen at least 6 feet inside your property line, so that it doesn’t encroach on neighboring property, and even if you don’t trim it regularly, consider cutting the top down every few years to reduce the shade it will throw in winter. You should also consider this final height and width if you are planting near your home, so that you don’t block windows. This plant doesn’t have a big root system, as many deciduous trees do, but even so allow 6 feet from the foundations when you plant. The most common mistake seen when planting around your home is not considering the size of the plants in 10 or 20 years.

Question: How good is Thuja Green Giant for screening?

Answer: A screen is like a hedge, but with little or no trimming. Plants need to be naturally upright, and not likely to fall apart when they become older. Thuja Green Giant is great for screening, as it does grow naturally dense, stands up tall, and resists breakage during storms and heavy snow. All this makes it perfect for screening. The only consideration is the height if untrimmed, but of course you can deal with that by simply having the top cut back by several feet every few years. Trimming the sides at the same time is also a good idea, just to keep it tidy and really solid. If height is not an issue, the great thing about this tough plant is that it is fine without trimming. This means a screen is basically ‘plant and forget’ – except for watering attention during the first season, and perhaps some fertilizer in the early years too. For screening, plant your trees 5 to 10 feet apart, depending on how solid you need this barrier to be. It will take a while for the plants to touch if they are 10 feet apart, but 5-foot spacing will fill in just a few years. If you have plenty of room, a good way to make a really solid screen, for maximum sound screening for example, is to plant a double row, with 5 feet between the rows and 8 to 10 feet between the plants, staggering them in the space between the plants in the opposite row. This doesn’t take very many extra plants, but it grows into a really solid screen.

Question: Will deer eat Thuja Green Giant?

Answer: The basic answer is, ‘probably not’, but deer being a little unpredictable (!!) nobody can say for sure. Many people do report that deer leave this plant alone, while it is well-known that deer will eat other Thuja plants, like the eastern white cedar. So while we are not going to say an definitive ‘No’, the chances are good that your Thuja Green Giant plants will be left alone. Another good thing is that since this plant grows so fast, if there is some limited damage, your bushes will grow back so quickly it will soon recover.

Question: How much watering does Thuja Green Giant need?

Answer: This depends on how long they have been in the ground. During the first growing season, from early spring to the middle or end of fall, it is best to water your plants well, soaking them once a week. Standing with a hose and spraying water is not the best way to water them (or most other plants either). It is much better to have a hose trickling slowly at the base of each plant for an hour or two, so that the water soaks deeply down, to where the roots are, and to encourage the plant to go down looking for water, not to grow on the surface, where the roots are much more vulnerable to drought. Even better is a leaky-pipe or drip-line irrigation system, attached to a hose. This will water all the plants at once, and you can even set it on a timer to do it automatically without any effort from you at all.

Whatever way you do it, that regular watering in the first year is vital for the survival and establishment of your bushes. After that you can reduce it a lot, although regular watering during dry periods will give you the strongest and fastest growth.

Question: Is Thuja Green Giant drought resistant?

Answer: Except for the first year, where regular watering is needed, and perhaps in the following two or three years as well, the answer is, ‘Yes’. Once established normal summer dry periods are not a problem for a hedge or screen of Thuja Green Giant. They won’t grow much during very dry periods, but they will almost certainly survive without damage. In areas where extended dry periods are normal, such as the south-west, then a better choice would be the Italian Cypress.

Plan for the Perfect Garden Screening

Winter is the time gardeners plan. Sitting inside, looking out a window onto a cold, wintery garden does something to bring out ideas and dreams. We might clearly all the things that need doing, and if looking out that window you see that your garden needs some screening, read on . . .

Reasons to Plant Screening Trees

It might seem obvious why you put in screening plants – because you have something to hide, right? In reality, it could be you don’t even realize that what is missing in your garden is screening. We often get used to the way things are, and don’t consciously see what it is that we are finding unsettling. Even if you are fairly comfortable with what you see from your garden, don’t underestimate the impact of enclosing the space, and creating a solid green backdrop to your garden. It creates intimacy, and all your plants look better and more significant against a wall, rather than against the background of neighboring houses, passing cars, or even simply the sky. If you don’t think so, imagine for a moment your living room furniture sitting in a field. What do you think? Does it look better or worse? I think you get the point.

Screening gives you that calm, green background, and the feeling of privacy and isolation is very calming on the spirit too. You will be less inhibited and more relaxed. In practical terms too, screening can block noise – from cars, neighbors, sports – and so make a more relaxed atmosphere too. It will reduce wind and make your garden warmer for both you and your plants too.

A good hedge or windbreak will raise the environment inside often by half a zone (from 6 to 5b for example), allowing you to experiment with a range of borderline plants. By reducing the wind speed you increase the ‘real feel’ of the temperature, making it warmer for humans too, extending the time you can comfortable use your outdoor space. In winter the slower wind will release snow further from your home, reducing drifting, and snow blowing through a hedge will be trapped, instead of building up inside, or against your home.

Check the Site

Once you decide to put in that screen, the next step is to look at the area you want to plant it along. How much space is there available? If this is along a property line, remember that you need to plant you hedge along a line that is at least 3 feet inside that line for a smaller hedge, and 6 feet inside for a larger hedge or unclipped screen. Then there is the thickness of the screen itself, which can grow to be 12 feet wide if you use larger trees. Often how much space you have available will decide what plants you use, and if you trim or leave it au naturel.

While you are outside checking this with your tape, take the opportunity to measure the length too, so that you can calculate the number of plants you need. This will depend on which plants you choose, but to calculate that number, divide the distance by the number of plants, and then add one more. No, not for good luck, but because the first and last plants will be placed at half the distance from the edges as the distance the plants are apart. For example, if you need to space your trees 6 feet apart, the first and last ones will be 3 feet from whatever it is that makes the end – your front property line for example, or your garage or house.

Choose the Best Plants for Your Location and Purpose

Now you can think about what type of plants you want to use. In most cases something evergreen makes sense, since it gives you screening 365 days of the year. But sometimes a deciduous tree is a better choice, if, for example, the screen is close to windows on its north side. The winter sun is low in the sky, and an evergreen hedge can make rooms dark when it casts a long shadow.

The main factors in deciding which evergreen will be the height you want, and where you live. For smaller hedges, and for all hedges in colder regions, the Emerald Green Arborvitae is a top choice. Hardy in zone 3, this dense selection of the native white cedar is perfect for hedges up to 6 or 8 feet, and it can easily be kept narrow too, an important consideration in a smaller garden. If you garden in zone 5 or warmer, the traditional choice would have been Leyland Cypress, but that has largely been replaced with Thuja Green Giant, which is very fast growing, but not quite as big. This tough and reliable hybrid evergreen will give you a solid screen, and it is drought, salt drift, and deer resistant too. For most gardens it is the ‘go to’ plant for screens and hedges. If you live in a very hot and very dry region, like Arizona or California, then consider using Italian Cypress, which is super drought-resistant, and has beautiful dark foliage that looks good under a hot, blue sky.

Planting Distances

Now it’s time to figure out how many plants you need for that screen. If you have limited space, you will certainly go for a single row. With larger evergreens like Thuja Green Giant, a spacing of 3 feet is the absolute minimum, and 4 or 5 feet is better, if you have a little more patience. This allows the plants to develop more at the base and keeps your planting thick right to the ground. For smaller evergreens, that 3 foot spacing is just about perfect. Anything less than 2 feet will mean the base is always thin, with a tendency to die out. If you have more room and opt for a double row, you end up with the densest screen. Space the rows 2 or 3 feet apart, and stagger the plants in each row, allowing 5 to 8 feet apart for the plants in each row. Again, use the smaller spacing for smaller evergreens or for a quicker fill with something larger, like Thuja Green Giant.

Plan your Soil Preparation

Now you are ready to order, and all that remains is to plan on preparing the site. Depending on where you live, you might be able to do this during the winter months, or wait until the ground thaws in spring. Either way, plan on rototilling a strip at least 3 feet wide for a single hedge (obviously wider for a double one) and incorporating a good quantity of rich organic material into the ground. Get the biggest tiller you can handle, and then work it as deep as possible into the ground. Bring in enough compost to dig in a 3 or 4-inch layer, and still have enough left over to mulch about 2 inches deep after planting.

That’s it. Once you have your plants ordered for a date after you will have the ground prepared, you are all set to put in the perfect screen, and reap all the benefits of privacy, warmth and silence. Enjoy!

New Year’s Resolutions for Better Hedges

The New Year is always a time for new beginnings, and especially for resolutions to do better in the coming year, wherever we think our lives need improvement. Gardeners too are always looking to improve things, and if you take a look at your hedge and think, “Hmm, not so great!”, then maybe this season of the New Year is a good time to make some resolutions to do better by your hedges in the coming year. Here are some ideas for things you can do to have better hedges around your garden, and to help you make a set of New Year’s Resolutions you can easily keep.

New Year’s Resolutions for Your Hedge

  • Grow the Right Plant – maybe it is time for a change
  • Have a Fertilizer Program – the most effective way to improve any hedge
  • Trim Regularly and Well – faulty trimming shortens the life of a hedge  – and spoils the look too

Grow the Right Plant

Let’s start with the worst-case situation – your hedge doesn’t work because the plants are the right choice for your needs. Maybe the prospect of starting again scares you, but don’t worry, you can replace a hedge in a few years, and never regret it. For example, maybe you have a hedge of a deciduous tree – willow perhaps, or some other fast-growing tree. The trouble with a deciduous hedge is that it is, well, deciduous. In winter you can see right through it, and you don’t like what you see. Plus, of course, people can see right through too, and you miss the privacy of a green, leafy hedge. As well, many fast-growing deciduous plants need a lot of trimming, and they always look messy and tend to develop big trunks with all the leaves at the top.

Alternatively, you might have a broad-leaf evergreen, like laurel, and are tired of looking at brown edges on those big leaves after trimming. Maybe your hedge is in shade, or in a hot, dry area, and the plants are not well-adapted to their location, so your hedge is thin and wispy, or brown and burned looking. Perhaps in spring a lot of it is burned and brown, from the winter cold, because it just isn’t hardy enough for your location. It could be that you have a very old hedge, and it is thin at the bottom, or bulges out and blocks paths and driveways. There are lots of reasons why you don’t like the hedge you have, but you don’t have to keep it.

Whatever the reason, if your hedge offends you, pluck it out. Really. You will be surprised how easy it is to remove a hedge, especially if you bring in a contractor, or use a truck to pull the trees out by the roots. A quick session with a chain saw, into the dumpster, and it’s done. A load of compost, then run a roto-tiller over it once or twice, and it’s ready to replant. Once you remove an old hedge you will be amazed at how much room you get back. Hedges can grow wide without realizing it, and lots of valuable garden space will suddenly be yours. A bigger lawn, or room for garden beds – that space is yours to enjoy.

Now you can re-think a more suitable plant for the spot. Luckily, for most areas and most locations, there is one available – Thuja Green Giant. It’s evergreen, so all-year-round screening is easy. It grows across most of the country, and it’s tolerant of some shade, as well as sun, so it will grow well in many parts of your garden. It grows well in most soil, except for areas that are constantly wet, so that is probably not a limitation for you either. Best of all, this is the proven fastest-growing evergreen available, so you won’t have long to wait at all until your new hedge is looking great and doing the job for you. Of course, in the far north you will need something hardier – maybe Emerald Green Arborvitae. In really hot, dry areas a tough juniper, or Italian Cypress are often better choices, but across most of the country, nothing beats Thuja Green Giant.

Have a fertilizer Program

If putting in a new hedge is more than you need, maybe the reason your hedge isn’t doing well could be down to feeding it properly. Hedges are like lawns, that is, plants you trim a lot need extra nutrients, and they can become weak and wispy without it. If you have a new hedge too, then a regular feeding schedule will get it growing at maximum speed and keep it healthy and dense too.

Using fertilizer is especially important if you garden on sandy soil, where there are few nutrients available. You can take too approaches – improve your soil by adding organic material that will release nutrients, or you can add the nutrients directly from fertilizers. The ideal thing is often to do both. Obviously when you are planting a new hedge is the right time to add organic material mixed right into the soil, but even an established hedge will respond amazingly to mulching on the soil, without any digging in needed. It doesn’t matter a lot what you use – garden compost, rotted animal manure, city compost or mushroom compost (if these are available in your area), or any other similar kind of material available locally. All these materials improve your soil, retaining moisture and simultaneously improving drainage, and most importantly, slowly releasing lots of nutrients as they rot down. You will soon see your hedge greening up and sprouting strong new growth. Add more each spring for a few years and that tired old hedge will be looking brand-new again.

For maximum growth, combined this with fertilizer. You can find out more detail about fertilizing hedges here, but the secret is to add plenty of nitrogen, spread out over spring and early summer, with a boost of potash in early fall to strengthen your hedge for the winter. Modern slow-release fertilizers are available today that only need one spring application to feed all season long, which is a great time-saver. You can use chemical or organic sources, as you choose, they all work well. For the small cost and time needed, regular fertilizer is the most effective way to have a better hedge.

Trim Regularly and Well

Good trimming will prolong the useful life of a hedge, and keep it looking its best. Start trimming while a new hedge is first growing and do it as often as you can. If you wait until it reaches full size before starting, you will never have a dense hedge that stands up to bad weather.

Young hedges especially benefit from three or more trims a year, and light trims take just a short time, so you don’t spend so much extra time in the end. The best hedge is the one with dense growth, and many small branches, and regularly trimming is the best way to achieve that.

Slope a hedge inwards slightly, while keeping it flat. This lets more light down to the lower parts, so they stay green and healthy right to the ground. A hedge that bulges outwards as it goes up is much more prone to breakage, and to becoming a nuisance. Round the top to prevent snow and ice building up, and of course always use a good hedge trimmer that is correctly sharpened and adjusted – during winter is a good time to drop it in for repairs and sharpening, so it’s ready to go in spring.

The Best Reasons to Choose Thuja Green Giant for Your Garden

In life we want the best, right? The same is true in our gardens. Why fill your garden with second-rate plants, that will grow slowly, be weak and unhealthy, and never have the impact and beauty you dream of? Shade trees, flowering shrubs or evergreens – we should always choose the best types and varieties for the purpose we have in mind, and of course for our location. When it comes to larger specimen, screening or hedging evergreens, one variety stands out above the other offerings, for most of the country – Thuja Green Giant.

Reasons to Choose Thuja Green Giant

Grows Well in Most Soils

Thuja Green Giant grows well in a wide range of soils too. This plant handles acidic or alkaline soils well, and most soil types too, from sandy soils to clays. It does need moderate drainage, and won’t thrive in soil that is constantly wet, but apart from that it really doesn’t mind. Whatever your soil type, it is recommended to add plenty of rich organic material when you plant. This will retain water in sandy soils, and improve drainage in clay ones, as well as providing lots of valuable nutrients. An annual or bi-annual top-dressing over the roots of similar materials will keep your plants thriving over the long haul too.

Grows Well in Most Locations

Some plants need full sun all day long, while others burn quickly when exposed to the hot afternoon sun of summer. Most evergreens like sunshine, and Thuja Green Giant does too. But compared to any similar plant, it is more tolerant of variations in light levels. Of course it will perform best in full sun, growing dense and fast. In real life, however, almost every garden has some shade, at least for part of the day, so along the length of a hedge there will usually be areas that receive more sun, or less sun, through the day. Shade levels also vary with the seasons, with more shade in summer and fall on bigger areas of your garden. Because of its vigor, Thuja Green Giant will perform remarkable uniformly in those conditions, so that you won’t have a screen or hedge that is thick in some areas, and thin and weak in others. In deep continuous shade there are plants that will do better – like Yew or Laurel, for example. But in lighter shade you will still get great growth, and a good density of foliage too.

Grows Fast

For screens and hedges, we mostly want them yesterday. The quicker than become big enough to do their job, the better. Thuja Green Giant has proven the fastest-growing evergreen in controlled research, and you can be almost certain that in the early years you will see your plants add 3 feet in height every year. They won’t take long to reach your target height, and they will thicken quickly too, giving you the density you need for solid screening – even without clipping. As large specimens too, they grow upright and dense completely naturally, and just look great. That doesn’t mean you can’t clip them – you can of course – and they respond well too, turning into a solid wall, or a tight formal specimen you will really love.

Pest and Deer Resistant Too

Nobody wants to be out spraying their plants, especially in this time of concern over chemical exposure. You certainly won’t need to be spraying if you choose Thuja Green Giant for your garden, because it is right up there for resistance to diseases and pests. With its natural toughness it will soon recover from anything that does come along, so you can plant with confidence, knowing that this is one plant that can take care of itself.

Many people have horror stories to tell about their battles with deer, which can ravage a garden overnight. Deer are hard to predict, and if hungry enough, just like people they will eat just about anything. So no, we won’t say that no deer, anywhere, anytime, has ever taken a bite from a plant of Thuja Green Giant, but we will say that it rarely happens, they rarely take much, and the plants almost always recover rapidly. Compared to most other evergreens, and certainly others with soft-foliage like Thuja Green Giant, this plant is certainly deer resistant.

Always Looks Good

Some evergreens look lush and green in spring and early summer, but then they can yellow in the hottest months, or turn brown in winter, especially when grown in cold areas. Thuja Green Giant is not like that. It stays green all year round, and indeed, it often looks at its best in winter, when the softer light brings out the green in most plants. Other kinds of Thuja plants are very prone to turn bronzy and brown in winter, not recovering until the new growth appears in spring. We really don’t want our plants to do that, since that green in winter is so much more cheerful, and Thuja Green Giant won’t. It is always green.

So you probably get the idea by now. If you are looking for large evergreens, to create a screen or hedge, or to plant as low-maintenance specimens around the garden, then it is truly hard to find a single reason why Thuja Green Giant is not your best pick, while there are many reasons why it is. So make your life simple, and choose the best.

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.


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.


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.

Thuja Green Giant – Still Number One Evergreen

It took almost 60 years for today’s most popular hedging plant to attract serious attention. It began as a seedling in a nursery in Denmark in 1937, but it was only after plants were grown at the National Arboretum in Washington DC that its remarkable properties were noticed. Success followed quickly after that, and very soon new plants were being created in their millions and snapped up by gardeners all across the country, eager to replace old hedges with something new that wouldn’t take a decade to look good.

Fastest Evergreen There Is

Thuja Green Giant certainly satisfied that need for speed, and it remains the fastest-growing evergreen around. Such claims are made for many plants, but this one has research to back it up. In trials at the University of Arkansas, tiny plants grew to 10 feet tall and were 5 feet wide after only 7 years. In the early years growth rates of over 3 feet a year were shown by the young plants.

These were plants growing in an open field, with just a little irrigation in summer. In a garden, with well-prepared soil, a solid fertilizer program, and plenty of water, growth in excess of 3 feet can be realistically expected in the first 3 years, falling to about 2 feet a year after that, and slowing to about 1 foot a year when the plants are mature. That is ideal, because once you reach the height you want, having to trim off 1 foot a year is fine, but trimming much more could become a real chore.

The reason for this rapid growth lies in the origin of the plant. DNA analysis has shown that it is definitely a hybrid, between the Western Redcedar, Thuja plicata, and the Japanese Arborvitae, Thuja standishii.  One grows in Oregon and Washington state, and the other grows in Japan, and they must both have been growing near each other in that Danish nursery. Such hybrid plants show something botanists call ‘hybrid vigor’. The weaknesses of each plant are masked by the strengths of the other, so the child of this meeting is stronger, faster-growing, and healthier than either parent. It is the same thing we see in many food crops, which are also hybrids.

Winter Hardiness

That hybrid vigor also helps make Thuja Green Giant really tough and resistant to cold. It stays green, unlike many other evergreens, that turn brown or bronze in winter, looking less than attractive. Rich green all winter – that what the Green Giant brings. It is completely hardy right through zone 5, and also in warm areas through zone 8 and even into zone 9. Almost wherever you live you can grow this plant easily.

If you do live in a colder area, you would be better choosing an improved form of the native white cedar, such as Emerald Green Arborvitae, which is hardy all the way into zone 2. Wow, minus 50 degrees! Although the white cedar or arborvitae turns bronze in winter, Emerald Green doesn’t, so it is worth using it, rather than cheaper ‘wild’ plants that are often offered locally.

If you live in a very dry area, like Arizona or New Mexico, or in zone 9, consider growing the Italian Cypress. This plant is not as fast growing as Thuja Green Giant, but it needs much less water, and it is renowned for its drought resistance. Its color is very dark green, and it makes a cooling background in a hot, sunny garden.

Rarely Bothered by Pests

Because of that hybrid vigor we mentioned, Thuja Green Giant is only very rarely seen with any serious pest or disease problems. Almost every grower reports that the just don’t see more than the odd patch of pests, which quickly disappear, and diseases are usually the result of very poor growing conditions, for example planting in soil that is always wet and boggy. Although it likes a regular supply of water, good drainage is important, so that air gets to the roots and keeps them healthy. If you do plant in a low-lying, always wet area, dig a raised mound or ridge, a good 6 inches above the level of the surrounding soil. Dig out soil and throw it up to make the mound – the resulting low area then acts as a drain. On this mound the soil will be drier, and your plants will thrive, while still having access to the water from below.

Deer Resistant Too

In many areas, deer are a real problem, and although we have to be careful to say ‘resistant’ and not ‘deer-proof’, many people do report that Thuja Green Giant is not bothered by deer. This is very different from many other evergreens, which are breakfast, lunch and dinner for local deer. There are lots of horror stories of gardeners spending years growing a nice Thuja hedge, only to see it one morning in winter stripped of all the lower branches and made completely useless. That seems not to have happened with Thuja Green Giant, so you can use it with confidence.

Deer are very unpredictable, and if hungry enough they will tackle anything, so if you do have regular deer in winter, spraying with a repellant makes sense. To turn your hedge or screen into a deer-proof barrier for your whole garden, add a chain-link fence, 2 or 3 feet behind the plants. Let the hedge just grow through it, and deer with never get through. You can never be too careful when it comes to those adorable but pesky critters.

Worth a Little Care

With a plant that is so easy to grow, neglect is still not the best approach. Spend some time and effort digging the area you are going to plant into. Add some rich organic material, such as garden compost or rotted manure if you can find some. Even peat moss is worthwhile if nothing else is available. When planting, allow 3 to 5 feet between plants, depending on how quickly you want them to fill in, and how wide you can let your hedge or screen become. For an untrimmed screen, 5 feet or even more is best. For a hedge you plan to clip regularly, 3 or 4 feet apart is about right. In the first year water deeply once a week, getting the water at the base of each plant, but also on the surrounding soil, to encourage the roots to grow outwards. In later years water during hot, dry spells. Have a simple fertilizer program, especially for the first few years. It really pays off. Slow-release fertilizer will last a whole season from just one spring application. It is more expensive, but the time saved is often worth it. Finally, clip right from the get-go, so that you build a dense structure. Waiting until you reach the final height is a common mistake. Just a light trim is all you need as your hedge develops – it really pays off in the future.

Five Black Friday Ideas for Your Hedge

The holiday shopping season has arrived, with Black Friday to kick it off. Lots of bargains around, and a great time to buy gifts for family members. If you have a garden, chances are you have a hedge – Thuja Green Giant perhaps, or some other evergreen. If you do, then it is almost certain that the person in your household who takes care of that hedge – trimming, feeding, watering during dry periods – would love something to make those chores go faster, and be done better. Are they battling with old trimmers, perhaps trailing an electric cord with multiple duct-tape repairs? Or still using that rickety old ladder? Shame! Start browsing the bargains to find some new, modern tools and equipment to help them do a better job more easily. If you are reading this, and you are that person, then give yourself a treat – you deserve it.

5 Black Friday Bargains for Your Hedge

  • Cordless Trimmers – no more trailing cords, or noisy gas engines, with the new generation of rechargeable batteries
  • Pruning Ladders – a three-legged ladder is a revelation for hedge trimming
  • Hand Pruners – useful for thicker branches, and a million jobs around the garden
  • A Load of Organic Mulch – perfect for conserving moisture and feeding your hedge (and the rest of your garden too)
  • Trade in your old hedge for a new one – Thuja Green Giant remains the number one top seller

Buy a Cordless Trimmer

If you are tired of trailing yards of electric cord around your yard, or trimming a hedge surrounded by gasoline fumes and noise from an engine, then there is good news for you. Advances in battery technology mean that light-weight rechargeable lithium batteries are now perfect for hedge trimmers. If you don’t believe it, look at the professionals in your area trimming and hedges, and the chances are you will see them with battery trimmers. If it’s good enough for them, what are you waiting for? Look for Black Friday bargains in the trimmer department and go for real portability without heavy equipment. Smaller trimmers have the battery build into them, but if you have a lot of hedges to trim, consider a backpack battery. It will give you all the hours you need to get the job done, and it makes the weight totally manageable. Consider too that many battery trimmers are part of systems that include blowers, edgers, and other tools, all interchangeable. You can do all your garden chores quickly and efficiently with a single battery system.

We reviewed cordless trimmers recently, so take a look for more details. Once you switch you will never look back.

Climb the Ladder of the Professionals

The great secret of hedge trimming is the existence of three-legged ladders. Even many pros don’t use them, but these amazing ladders are certainly used by the best gardeners, not just to trim their Thuja Green Giant hedge, but for trimming all there smaller trees, clipped specimens, and for picking fruit too. If you have anything bigger than the smallest garden, these ladders are a necessity. Instead of a pair of legs at the back there is just one. The front steps usually flare out at the bottom for extra stability. That single leg can easily be slipped inside a hedge, letting you climb up and be close to the face. This is especially useful for trimming the top, where it makes it so much easier, especially if you don’t have really long trimmers.

More correctly called ‘tripod ladders’ or ‘orchard ladders’, these are available from several suppliers across the country. It is also much easier to put up a tripod ladder than a regular step ladder, because they are so much easier to make stable on uneven ground, or on slopes. Save your step ladder for indoors, or on flat terraces, and use a tripod ladder around the garden. We looked in more detail at these in a recent blog. Take a look and make the change – you won’t regret it for a moment. Indeed, you will wonder how you ever got by without one.

Hand Pruners – a simple but vital tool

Every gardener needs a good pair of pruners. Tucked into a back pocket, or in a sheath on your belt, you will always be pulling them out for that broken branch you come across, or for big pruning jobs. When trimming a hedge they are helpful for any thicker branches, or to tidy broken pieces, or to catch stray bits. Since you will be using them regularly, avoid bargains, and track down something worthwhile. Always use the type called ‘by-pass’ pruners. These have a single sharp curved blade that slides by a blunt, solid blade. Other kinds with a flat-edged blade landing on a flat second blade work fine when brand new, but the slightest chip or dent and they will tear the bark, instead of making a clean cut.

The classic gardener’s brand is Felco – made in Switzerland for pruning grape vines, but now the grand cru of pruners for gardens too. Perhaps a Black Friday bargain to be found, but worth every dollar, whatever you have to pay. Blades and other parts are easily replaced, so they last for decades, even with constant use.

Mulch – the garden Miracle Food

Honestly, we don’t know if mulch suppliers have Black Friday bargains, but hey, they are probably open to negotiation. In any case, a load of bulk mulch is the perfect gift for any hedge grower, or any gardener. Call local topsoil suppliers, who will usually have a supply of rich, organic mulch – from a local mushroom farm, dairy or stables most likely. If not, they may have municipal compost, or composted bark as a last, but still worthwhile, resort.

Mulch over the roots of your hedge – keep it a few inches away from the stems, and off the foliage – will conserve moisture during summer and keep the roots cool. It will also slowly break down into the ground, adding nutrients and materials that bind together the soil particles, improving drainage and air penetration into the soil. All these things are guaranteed to improve your soil, and so improve your plants, no matter what kind of soil you grow on. Use mulch all over your garden. If you are not already a convert, you soon will be!

Replace your old hedge with Thuja Green Giant

Don’t forget that plant suppliers have Black Friday too, and you can bet there are special offers on the number-one selling hedging plant, Thuja Green Giant. Renowned for its fast growth – three feet a year or more when young – and its resistance to deer, salt-spray, and drought, you can’t go wrong anywhere from zone 5 to zone 9 with it.  Allow 3 to 5 feet apart, depending on how quickly you need it to fill in. Measure what you need, and order now while the bargains last.

Are Your Evergreens Ready for Winter? 5 Simple Steps

As the first snow begins to fall in the north, it is time to prepare your evergreens for winter, so they emerge in spring fresh and healthy, not dry and sad. It just takes a few simple steps, but the difference can be enormous.

5 Simple Steps to Help Evergreens Survive Winter

  • Water them deeply and well – the first and most important step
  • Mulch the root zone – it reduces soil freezing, and keeps the soil moist too
  • Spray with anti-desiccant – these sprays create a water-proof barrier to evaporation
  • Consider netting – it prevents breakage, reduces wind damage, and beats burlap hands-down
  • Feed with potash – it toughens the leaves against the cold

What’s the Problem?

Even the toughest evergreens – especially in their early years – benefit from some attention in late fall. Most gardeners have experienced a spring when some of their evergreens came out of winter brown and crisp. They might have re-grown, but they rarely recover completely, and if it is a hedge, the result can be devastating.

The clue to the problem lies in the name – ‘evergreen’ – because it’s the way these trees keep their leaves all winter that causes the problem. It’s not that the leaves aren’t hardy enough to survive the cold. No, the problem is water. When the soil freezes it becomes much harder for these trees to draw up the water they need to keep their leaves moist. The low humidity and cold winds of winter cause water to be lost from the leaves, even though these plants have tough, waxy coatings on those leaves. If the lost water cannot be replaced, the leaves slowly dry out, and die. They may not change color until spring, looking green as winter ends, but the damage has been done.

Water your evergreens

The first and most important solution is watering – late, just before the ground freezes. No matter how wet fall has been, beneath the foliage, and especially where trees around your home are protected by the eaves, the soil can be dry. The more water in the soil, the less likely it is that all of it will freeze. If there is some free water left, your trees can much more easily replace what they lose from their leaves. Winter burn, as that dead foliage is called, will be prevented. This is especially important when trees are young, because the roots will not have spread far, or very deep, so they are dependent on a small volume of soil for their water needs.

So leave a hose running slowly for a few hours near the base of each tree, or if you have a hedge put down a ‘leaky pipe’ hose and soak the whole length. Slow soaking is much better than using a sprinkler, or hand watering, because the water goes deep, and the soil will be completely wetted, not just moist on the top.

Mulch the root-zone

Once the soil is wet, let’s keep it that way. A couple of inches of mulch – perhaps shredded bark, or even chopped leaves from your trees – will reduce evaporation and keep the soil damp. Put it down within a few days of that soaking, keeping it off the foliage, and a few inches from the trunk. Cover a wide area, so that all the root zone is protected. There is a less obvious value to this too. By insulating the soil surface you trap the existing warmth in the soil, and reduce both the time it stays frozen, and how deep it goes. In a mild winter you may prevent freezing altogether, which is an ideal outcome. That mulch can be left in place to conserve moisture next year too, and just topped-up each fall. If you use something rich, like compost, it will also feed your trees, and improve the properties of the soil over time.

Spray with anti-desiccant

It is amazing how few gardeners use a product that professionals in cold areas use extensively. Anti-desiccant sprays create a thin, invisible plastic film over the foliage, which reduces water-loss dramatically. They are widely used by landscapers after planting all sorts of trees, as well as for winter protection. Pick some up at your garden center, and spray while the temperatures are above freezing, but as close as you can to that first hard freeze or snow fall. Once dry – which takes just a few hours – they resist rain, but they can in time wash off. If you have a lot of winter rain, and there is a warmer period at some point in the winter, then spray again if you can. If you are not familiar with anti-desiccants, give them a try. You will be amazed at the protection these products give, on both conifers and broad-leaf evergreens like Rhododendrons, Holly, and Cherry Laurel.

Consider netting

In cold areas there is a long tradition of wrapping evergreens in burlap for the winter, but there is a much better alternative available, in the shape of netting. Black or dark -green, with ½ inch squares, it is invisible from a few yards away. It doesn’t destroy the look of your yard, but it keeps the branches together, and stops them breaking under the weight of snow or ice. Surprisingly, it also reduces desiccation injury, because by holding the branches more tightly together it slows down the passage of the wind through the branches – a double benefit. In spring there is no rush to remove it, while burlap can cause fatal heating-up and premature sprouting, both of which are damaging. Just try and remove the netting before new growth begins, otherwise it can become tangled, and harder to remove safely.

Feed with potash

Potash, the element potassium, is known to improve winter survival, and bring evergreens through the winter in good shape. Starting as early as October, feeding your evergreens with a fertilizer high in potash (the last number in the fertilizer formula), but low in nitrogen (the first number in the formula), will help the foliage hold moisture, and thicken the walls of the cells against cold damage. You should be able to find these fertilizers labelled for hedges and evergreens in fall, and they do a great job of giving an extra level of protection.


You may not need to do all these things, depending on your plants, and where you live. But they are all great ways of protecting your evergreens from the ravages of winter – a little care goes a long way.