Fall Care of Thuja Green Giant

Fall is just around the corner – indeed in northern areas Labor Day weekend often sees the first cooler weather arrive, and with it the first hints of fall color. As that color intensifies, our evergreens become more prominent, as their permanent green forms a backdrop to the kaleidoscope of golds and reds that takes over our trees. Once simply background, an evergreen screen or hedge is suddenly thrown into contrast – and its defects can become much more prominent. Just when we want them to look perfect, they may not be. So before the full arrival of fall, and the distractions and other garden work that arrives with it, now is an excellent time to give your hedges and evergreens some attention, so that they will be lush and green, and also so that they will pass through the coming winter unscathed.

Recommendations for Fall Care of Thuja Green Giant

  • Fertilizer with a high potassium feed – it toughens your plants for winter
  • Use a fertilizer with iron and magnesium – it will enrich the green coloring
  • Water deeply right up to freeze up – the best prevention for ‘winter burn’
  • Give a last trim in early fall – the perfect backdrop to fall color, and reduced winter damage too

Fall Fertilizer Guidelines for Thuja Green Giant

Through spring and summer, the emphasis in feeding evergreens is on the element nitrogen. This is the element that encourages vigorous, lush growth, and so evergreens need plenty of it to fulfil their promise. Strong, rapid growers like Thuja Green Giant in particular, have enormous potential for spring and summer growth, and three feet a year during its early life is easily achieved. But to do that your plants need plenty of nitrogen. So summer fertilizers for evergreens are packed with it, and N-P-K formulas like 10-8-6 in granular feeds, or 20-5-10 in liquid fertilizers are common.

In fall and through winter your evergreens have different needs, so a shift in formulation is needed. Roots respond to the moisture from fall rain, especially since the ground is still warm, and roots need lots of phosphorus – the ‘P’ in that formula. An increase in that number, or even an application of a high-phosphorus fertilizer for transplanting, is called for. Especially if you have new trees, planted back in spring, and you didn’t add phosphorus at that time, early fall is an ideal moment to use a ‘transplant’ fertilizer. Phosphorus is notorious for not penetrating into the soil, so a granular form needs to be forked into the top layers of soil. Alternatively, use a liquid formulation, where the nutrients will be carried deeper by the water they are dissolved in.

In colder area in particular, winter damage is always a concern. The nutrient potassium – that’s the ‘K’ in the formula – has been repeatedly proven to enhance cold resistance, as well as resistance to sucking insects and fungal diseases. A visit to your local hardware or garden center at this time will usually give you a high-potassium evergreen food for fall, with a lower first number too (that’s the nitrogen, remember). Reducing nitrogen and increasing potassium ‘hardens off’ that summer growth, slowing down your plants so they enter winter tough and resistant. As well, look for supplementary iron and magnesium, which will quickly put a rich green into your foliage, intensifying that beautiful color contrast with the golds of fall.

Fall Watering Recommendations for Thuja Green Giant

The stresses of summer can leave the subsoil dry, and unless you have several days of steady rainfall, your trees can go into winter in soil with a moisture deficit. This in turn will leave your plants more prone to stress, so through fall take steps to prevent that. Deep watering in early September will stimulate root growth, and those soakings should continue through the season, making sure to give one last one before the ground begins to freeze (if it does in your zone). Not only does this keep the roots healthy, and the foliage sturdy and full of moisture, but it gives important winter protection too, especially in colder areas, with young plants, and in exposed locations. Thuja Green Giant is one tough plant, but if the foliage is dry it can burn in cold winter winds and bright sun, when water is drawn from the foliage by the solar heat and cold, dry air. If that happens then that green color will turn to brown, disfiguring your hedge, and spoiling that wonderful green winter color. If the ground freezes then it is harder for the trees to draw up water, and the foliage is more susceptible to this kind of damage. Plenty of water at the roots is your secret weapon against this ‘winter burn’, because moist soil freezes more slowly, or not at all, so water uptake is easier for your trees.

Early fall is an ideal time for the last trim

Since your evergreens are about to become a whole lot more noticeable, it is time to smarten them up for the party. A light trim in early fall will smooth out any defects, and make your hedges and screens look perfect. But it’s not just a matter of visuals. Every time you trim you develop denser growth and a tighter surface on your hedges. With every trimming they become denser and denser, which is what gives hedges that mature look we all strive for. As well though, as is often the case with good gardening habits, it isn’t just a case of visuals. If snow and ice storms are a feature of your winters, then a smooth, dense and clipped surface on a hedge is much less likely to accumulate snow and ice and break apart. Make sure too that you round off the top if you are in a high-snowfall area, or subject to blizzards. The round top will shed snow better, and it is much less likely to collapse under the weight of accumulated snow.

If you follow these simple recommendations, you will be making your plants of Thuja Green Giant – and other similar evergreens too – even more beautiful, as well as giving them the best care possible. They will thank you with beauty and rich green coloring as the perfect backdrop to the colorful activities in your garden that make fall most beautiful of all the seasons.

The Beginner’s Guide to Evergreen Hedges and Screens

A hedge that is green all year is the perfect backdrop to any garden – heck, many gardens are simply a hedge, lawn and shade tree, and they provide everything needed to enjoy a simple garden. So planting a row of evergreens to create a clipped hedge, or a less formal, unclipped screen, is often the first major project in a new garden, followed by that lawn and shade tree. Of course, for a more beautiful garden flowering shrubs and other plants are needed too, but without that hedge, many gardens don’t look right. This is especially true if you have an unsightly view, or you are overlooked by a road or near-by houses, and the privacy you achieve from a hedge makes such a difference that most people choose to make it an early priority.

If you are new to gardening – perhaps this is your first home, after living in apartments – then there are plenty of pitfalls, so getting a clearer understanding of what you need, and what is involved, is the first step to take. Let’s do that here, and see what the vital questions are that will guide you through the process.

Questions to Ask When Planning an Evergreen Hedge

  • How high do I need my hedge to be?
  • What plants are the best choice for my area?
  • How many plants do I need?
  • How long will it take to grow?

Let’s take each of these questions in turn and give some answers.

How high do I need my hedge to be?

This is an important question, because you want the plant you choose to do the job, but equally, you don’t want to plant something too big, that is likely to take over in a few years, or throw so much shade your garden suffers.

It is often not obvious how tall a hedge or screen needs to be, unless you are planting right up against a fence or wall you want to hide. Then you can simply measure the height of the wall or fence, and you know the height of the hedge you need. But when it comes to concealing the view of something further away, it gets more complex. There is a simple way to do it though, and here it is. Collect together an assistant, some bamboo canes or tall poles, some string, and a piece of red cloth. Tie the red cloth to the end of one of the canes, and have your assistant hold it on the line where you want to plant your hedge. Stand in the places you want to be shielded from view in and look at that red cloth. Is it high enough? Thought not. Now tie a second cane to the bottom of the first one and try again. Tall enough now? Too tall? Keep adding canes, holding them vertically upright, and checking what it hides, until you are satisfied with the result. Take a measure and see what the height of those sticks are. I bet it isn’t at all what you expected. Now you know the minimum height you need for your hedge or screen. That was simple, wasn’t it!

Knowing the height, you can now choose a suitable plant. For a screen you want something that will reach that height in under 10 years, although if you need a lot of height that could be unrealistic. So something that will grow fast is needed if the height is over 10 feet. Look at the maximum height listed for plants you are interested in and make sure it will even grow to the height you want. Since most plants slow down as they approach mature height, for coverage in a reasonable time you need to choose something with a mature height twice the minimum height you need for screening – or you will be waiting 30 years for your screen. You might need to have the screen topped every couple of years, if excess height is a problem.

What plants are the best choice for my area?

Check your postcode against the USDA zone system, and see where you fall. If you are between Zone 5 to 9, then Thuja Green Giant is probably your best bet. It’s fast-growing, and tough as they come. In colder areas Emerald Green Arborvitae, which is equivalent to a cold-hardy, smaller form of Thuja Green Giant, is the top choice. It does grow more slowly (although still fast) and only reaches 12 feet in height, but that is plenty for a hedge or shorter screen, and most importantly it will live happily even in Zone 3 For a taller barrier, consider using spruce. Both blue spruce and Norway spruce are hardy to zones 2 or 3, and if you use a columnar form you will get height to 25 or 30 feet in time, without a lot of spread taking over your garden.

For hot and dry areas in zones 7 or more, the Italian Cypress is the top choice – it’s incredibly heat and drought resistant. The most awkward weather conditions are dry and cold too, but there Spartan Juniper of Blue Spruce are the top two choices for hedges and screens.

How many plants do I need?

This is easy. Measure the space you want to fill. The basic rule for hedges is one-quarter of the mature width, so it depends on that. Don’t just guess, check it out. Thuja Green Giant, for example, has a mature width of 12 feet, so 3 feet apart is the minimum spacing for a hedge – you can add another foot if you are a little more patient. For a screen you can increase this to half the minimum width, so that is 6 feet for Thuja Green Giant, or up to 8 feet if you aren’t in a big hurry. You can read more details on spacing in this recent blog, ‘Proper Spacing is the Key to Successful Hedges and Screens’.

How long will it take to grow?

This is the most common question, but also the hardest to answer. Thuja Green Giant will add 3 feet a year when young, dropping to about half that after 5 or 6 years. Other evergreens are slower, with 2 feet a year when young being a realistic expectation. Thorough soil preparation, correct planting, watering as needed, and a good fertilizer program will all help you to maximize growth, not just in height, but in thickness and density, which are just as important when it comes to screening and hedges. Light trimming will also help to build a thicker, denser hedge more quickly, so don’t wait until it reaches full size before getting out the trimmers.

 

If you sort out these questions first, you will be able to make better choices, and have more success with your new screen or hedge. Before you know it you will have that coveted privacy you are looking for.

 

Planting Screens with Thuja Green Giant

Screening is a key issue for many garden owners, for both privacy and protection of your garden. Everyone want to be able to use their garden without strangers – or neighbors – watching their every move, and very often to achieve that plants are the best option. Screening is not only visual, and there are several other important reasons to plant screening trees:

  • Visual Screening – evergreen plants provide the only practical solution when screening more than 6 feet tall is needed. A fence does not block second or third-story windows, but fast-growing trees can do that within a few years. As well, green, living screening trees are much more attractive than fences, last decades longer, and are much lower maintenance too.

There is more to screening than just blocking neighboring homes that might look into your garden. You may be near a highway, an industrial zone, rail-tracks, power plants, or other unsightly but essential city features. A tall planting can and will obscure even large structures, turning an unattractive aspect into a calming wall of green. When you come to sell your property, the disappearance of that eye-sore will have increased the value of your property greatly, for just a minimal investment in a few trees.

  • Noise Screening – many homes are built along busy roads or backing onto highways. You may be near a car park, with regular comings and goings, or even in the countryside there can be barns and active farming areas. Industrial parks too can generate noise, both day and night. Noise pollution is a serious problem, but plantings of evergreen trees filter and reduce noise levels more effectively than any other equivalent structure. The dense, irregular structure of a wall of green absorbs noise far more effectively than any hard surface of wood, metal or concrete. Installation is easy, and the cost is just a fraction of any other solution.
  • Air Pollution Screening – dust and atmospheric pollutants are absorbed by plants very effectively. Dirt particles are trapped by the complex layers of foliage, and then later washed into the soil by rainfall. Numerous pollutant gases, from carbon dioxide to methane, or are absorbed by the foliage, incorporated into the structure of the plant, and may remain in the wood for decades, or drop with foliage and be re-cycled into the earth. Nothing does this as effectively or cheaply as plants.
  • Heat Screening – because plants loss water into the atmosphere by evaporation, they cool the air around them. Evaporation absorbs heat from the surroundings, so it is automatically cooling, and much cheaper than air-conditioning. Unlike solid surfaces, which raise the temperature of areas near them by reflecting heat, plants absorb it, so the enclosed area will be cooler than an open space, and much cooler than an area screened with walls and fences.
  • Wind and Snow Screening – the porous structure of screening plants absorbs the energy of wind, rather than just deflecting it, or even amplifying it, as hard surfaces do. That slowing of wind extends many feet on the sheltered side of the plants, so if you live in an open, windy spot, a row of evergreens on the windward side will create a calm haven around your home. As well, that fall in wind-speed means that snow drops to the ground near the screen, instead of drifting towards your house, so you will have less snow built-up on driveways, paths, and around buildings. This means you have less snow to clear, and saves you time and effort in winter

Why Thuja Green Giant for Screening?

Screens all year round

You can get screening from almost any tall plants, but there are several reasons why Thuja Green Giant is the ideal choice. To begin, it is evergreen, so the impact is seen all year round. Deciduous screening may be attractive in summer and even fall, but in winter it is bare, and although the network of branches does still exert some effect on wind, your visual screening is almost completely gone. So evergreens make a lot of sense. Thuja Green Giant forms an evergreen wall of dense foliage, that is an attractive green color all year round. Many other evergreens can turn bronzy in winter, looking less attractive, or they may become scorched in either very cold or very hot conditions, needing care and looking unsightly.

Grows faster than anything else

As well, Thuja Green Giant is the proven fastest growing evergreen screening plant available. There are faster growing deciduous plants, like willow, but among evergreens nothing beats this plant. It can add 3 feet or more in height during its early years, and averages more than a foot a year right up to maturity. A ten-foot screen takes 5 to 7 years to create, depending on the size of the plants you start with.

Grows large enough to screen anything

Mature Thuja Green Giant plants will be 30 feet tall, and that will provide enough height for screening out almost anything. Yet it stays green right to the ground, so that vital eye-level area will always be blocked. This plant retains its dense structure for ever, unlike trees such as spruce or pine, which often become more open with age, and lose lower branches. This means that if you space your plants correctly, you never need to trim to keep your screening dense – which is a huge saving in time and dollars over any time-frame you choose to measure. Plus, if you do prefer a more formal hedge-like look, and a lower height, then this is a very easy plant to trim, responding well by growing denser, looking attractive right after trimming (unlike plants with larger leaves) and capable of being trimmed at most times of the year.

Grows in a wide range of conditions.

From zone 5, with cold, snowy winters, all the way into zone 8 or 9, with little or no winter at all, Thuja Green Giant performs well, without winter damage. It is drought resistant too, and once established needs no supplementary care. It is also virtually pest and disease free, and unlike many other evergreens, deer usually leave it alone as well. It grows in almost any kind of soil, except for ones that are constantly wet, and it tolerates a range of soils from acid to alkaline. Good soil preparation pays dividends in health, density and speed of growth, but even plants put into the ground with minimal preparation thrive and establish themselves well.

Easily obtainable at competitive prices

Because Thuja Green Giant is widely grown, in large numbers on a commercial scale, easy availability of plants in a range of sizes to suit your needs is always there. Prices are competitive too, although avoid ‘bargains’, as these will often be very small, or have open, thin foliage. Buy from a reputable, established company, and look for free shipping, so that you don’t see a big extra charge at the bottom of the bill. With on-line nurseries offering the best prices for top-quality plants, you can have those trees right at your door in a matter of days – just time enough for you to get the holes ready!

Caring for Your New Thuja Green Giant

You took the big step and planted a new screen or a hedge of Thuja Green Giant, right? Or maybe you have used some as future large specimens in the corners of your garden. Whichever it is, you have made the right choice if you are looking for fast-growing, disease and pest free plants, that even deer leave alone. These first years are the most important ones, because after that your plants will be almost completely self-maintaining, unless you are planning to trim them regularly for a formal look. It’s during these years, especially the first season or two, that the foundations of an easy and successful future for your plants are laid down.

For the Best Growth of Your New Trees:

  • Water regularly – it’s vital
  • Fertilize properly – use liquid formulations
  • Trim right away – establish dense growth early

We will assume you did all the early steps properly – ground preparation, correct spacing, and good planting – but if not, you will find blogs on this site covering all these things in detail – assuming you haven’t actually put them in the ground yet. Here we are going to consider the important steps in caring for your new Thuja Green Giant plants for the first season or two, so they really get going with a bang.

Keep Watering

The biggest mistake made is to think that because these are tough, reliable plants, you can just plant them and forget them. Maybe you will get lucky, with good falls of rain spaced out nicely through the season, and everything will be fine if you ‘plant and walk away’. But it’s much better to give some simple basic care until your trees become established, and watering should be at the top of the list. Remember that your plants went into the ground with just the soil from their pots around their roots, and for the first little while that is the only soil available to them. So when the weather turns warm and dry, and the summer sun begins to shine, they will start to lose water from their foliage immediately. The only source for that water is the soil around the roots, although if you have planted well, and firmed the soil around the root-ball, that ball will suck some water out of the surrounding soil too. None the less, even if the soil looks damp, it pays to look after that root ball with a little extra care, until enough time has passed for the roots to grow out.

So once a week, or even twice a week if the weather is hot and dry, go along the row with a hose and let plenty of water trickle down close to the stem, soaking that hidden root-ball. Any excess will drain out into the surrounding soil, and this simple exercise, which doesn’t take long, is the best single thing you can do to guarantee the survival and good growth of your new trees.

Pay attention to the surrounding soil too, as the roots won’t grow out into dry earth. The best way, and the most water-wise, is to run a porous hose along the row of your new hedge, weaving it in and out of the stems as you go. This can stay in place for years, and it will quickly be hidden by new growth. By running the water directly on the ground, you get it exactly where needed, and you don’t lose it to evaporation, which happens with a sprinkler. Connect this trickle hose to a regular line, and turn it on for a few hours, until the water has soaked in and spread sideways. How often you need to do it will depend on the type of soil you have, how hot it is, whether you have used mulch (which is recommended), and how much rain has fallen. Don’t be fooled by light showers – scrape back a little soil to see if it is dry underneath, as it often is after light rain. Keep the soil damp, but don’t water until the soil is looking a little dry, as the roots won’t grow into a swamp!

Use Fertilizer

You probably enriched the soil when you planted – it’s highly recommended – but until the roots grow out that food is not available. Plants grown in containers are fed regularly with liquid fertilizers, and you will get the best growth from your new plants by doing the same. Choose a water-soluble formulation designed for hedges and evergreens, and use it as directed. If the directions are to apply monthly, you will get even better results by halving the concentration and applying every two weeks instead, as this gives a steadier supply of those vital nutrients. Start in mid-spring, as soon as you see signs of new growth, and flowers coming out around the garden, and keep feeding into early fall. Then stop, especially in colder areas, as you want your trees to finish growing in time for the new growth to harden off before winter. In warmer regions you can continue feeding until late fall.

Start Trimming Right Away

Since you want your plants to grow as much as possible, trimming might sound counter-intuitive. Some people wait until their plants have grown to their intended size before beginning to trim, but this is a mistake that can shorten the effective life of your screen or hedge significantly.

The best practice is to trim lightly almost as soon as you plant. Once you see a little new growth, take a sharp pair of shears and trim a little bit off. It doesn’t even have to be an inch of growth, and pay special attention to the top, as it will soon ‘run away’ if it can, leaving the bottom areas thin. This is something that cannot be fixed later, so slow down growth in height just a little, to build up bushy, broad plants that will stay green to the ground for decades. In fact, if your new plants have some wispy long upper growth, trim it back a few inches the same time that you plant.

Your goal should be broad, full plants with many branches right to the ground. Regular light trimming, taking a little more from the top than the sides, will make that happen. Taper the growth inwards a little, so that light reaches right to the bottom, and always do that for the life of your hedge and screen. During the first and second seasons you might want to trim lightly 4 or 5 times during the growing season, and since your plants are still small it won’t take long. Use sharp tools and just remove the tips from the new growth.

 

These simple steps are just a little extra work but a big investment in a great future for your plants. Your new Thuja Green Giant are going to do most of the work, so give them a helping hand – it’s a small effort that brings big results.

Green Giant or Emerald Green – What is the Difference?

That screen or hedge you plant is an important part of your garden, and something that is going to be with you for many years. Making the right choices, planting it correctly, growing it up, and maintaining it, are all steps along the road to the perfect hedge – beautiful, functional and easy to care for. Hedge plants might all look green, but they are all different, and making the right choice is the first step on the road to that perfect planting. The top two evergreen trees for hedging are certainly Thuja Green Giant, and Emerald Green Arborvitae, so which should you choose? Let’s answer some of the basic questions often asked about these plants, to help you make the right choice for your particular situation.

What is the Difference Between Green Giant and Emerald Green?

Let’s start with how they are the same. Both these trees are evergreen conifers belonging to the group botanists call Thuja. They are part of the cypress family, and a small group, with just five members. All of them are trees of different sizes, and all have scaly green leaves that cling to fan-shaped small branches, creating a dense structure. Older trees develop small cones – which is why they are conifers. They are called cedars, arborvitae, or thujas – all these are the same trees.

Of those 5 species, three are native to North America, and two to Asia. Their connection dates back to the time before the Pacific Ocean pushed those two continents apart. Emerald Green is a form of the Eastern White Cedar, Thuja occidentalis. This tree saved the lives of the early settlers, when native Americans showed them how to make a tea from the foliage that prevented the development of scurvy in the wintertime. Those grateful settlers called it the Tree of Life – which translated into Latin is ‘arbor vitae’ – the origin of that common name.  Although an American tree, it was a Danish nurseryman who found the form he called ‘Smaragd’. That was in 1950, and the great virtue of this plant was that it stayed green all winter, instead of turning bronzy-green they way most of these plants do. That is why grateful American gardeners nicknamed it Emerald Green.

The story of Green Giant is more complex, and also happened in Europe, at the same Danish nursery – D. T. Poulsen. In the 1930s they found a plant that they believed was a hybrid between a Japanese Thuja (Thuja standishii) and a Western Redcedar (Thuja plicata), they had growing near each other. These two plants grow on opposite sides of the Pacific Ocean, so they could only meet when brought together in a garden. Because of world events it was only in the 1960s that a specimen arrived in America, and only in the early 1990s that nurserymen noticed this plant and realize what a great hedging and screening plant it would make. It had never been named, but the name ‘Green Giant’ seemed very appropriate, so that is what it became.

Which One Should I Grow?

Interesting as all that is, the big question for most gardeners is, ‘Which one should I choose?’, so let’s try to answer that question.

Which One Grows Fastest?

On this question there is no doubt. While Emerald Green is certainly a steady grower, adding as much as 12 inches a year once established, under good growing conditions, Green Giant puts that to shame. Like other plants that are hybrids, it is very vigorous, and can grow 3 feet a year when young. Over several years it will add several more feet to its height than Emerald Green will. So if it was simply a matter of growth-rate, Thuja Green Giant is undoubtedly the winner. In fact, there is nothing else that grows so fast, or creates a barrier so quickly.

Which Grows Biggest?

Size does matter – with hedges too. If you are looking for a tall screen or hedge, over 10 feet tall, then you should go with Thuja Green Giant. If left unclipped it will reach 30 in as many years, and it will be 12 feet wide if grown in the open. That is a big plant, so if you are planning not to clip, be sure you have the room for it, and allow enough space for its width too. No point in planning a ‘no trimming’ screen and then having to trim because it has grown all over your driveway!

For smaller hedges, screens and specimen plants, choose Emerald Green Arborvitae, because it only grows 12 to 14 feet tall, and 3 or 4 feet wide.

Where Do They Grow Best?

If you live in the colder parts of the country – zones 2, 3, and 4, the Emerald Green Arborvitae is your obvious choice. It is completely hardy to minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit, without even needing winter protection. Green Giant might survive, with some injury, in zone 4, but beyond that it is ‘no contest’. Colder areas are just not suitable for that plant. Emerald Green will also grow well up to zone 7, so for smaller hedges in areas where you could grow Green Giant, you might decide that Emerald Green is your better choice.

In the warmer zone 6, 7, 8 and even 9, then Green Giant Arborvitae is the obvious choice – and the only one in zones 8 and 9.

Will Deer Eat Them?

It is impossible to be definitive about deer – when they are hungry enough they will eat just about anything. But Green Giant has been found to be deer resistant in many parts of the country, while Emerald Green is much more likely to be eaten. If deer are a problem where you live, the answer is obvious.

What Kind of Soil Do They Like?

Here too there are some clear differences. Both these plants do well in most kinds of soil, but Emerald Green, because it is a form of the eastern white cedar, will grow well even in wet, partly flooded areas, or any soil with poor drainage. If you have wet soil, and are zone 7 or lower, then Emerald Green is the better choice. If the soil is well-drained, then Green Giant Arborvitae will grow well, in anything from sandy soil to clay.

Which Makes the Best Hedge?

The answer here is simple – both. What matters in creating a smooth, flat-fronted hedge – which is what most people like to see – is spacing. Since Emerald Green is only about 4 feet wide when mature, in a single row you need to plant them just 2 or 3 feet apart, otherwise they will never grow together properly. With Green Giant, you can space them 3 to 5 feet apart, and still grow the perfect hedge. That difference means you need fewer plants, and the cost of a hedge will be lower.

 

So there is the answer – it depends. . . Now you have plenty of information to make your decision – so you are much more likely to make the right one.

The Beginners Guide to Thuja Green Giant

You have probably heard the name, and likely seen the plant, but if you are an absolute beginner, just starting out with your first garden, then you might be wondering what all the fuss is about, and why so many people have so much to say about this plant. It’s green, right? – and it must be big?

If you just took over a garden, or have a brand new one to plant, then Thuja Green Giant is almost certainly your best friend. This plant is an evergreen – it stays green all winter – and it is a conifer, that is, it doesn’t have flowers, but instead has structures called cones. This means that it is related to pine trees, which you probably recognize, although it looks very different. It has tiny leaves that cling to the stems, so it looks like divided green branches, all growing together.

Why is Thuja Green Giant the Top Choice Evergreen?

The main reason is its speed of growth – 3 feet a year is common in the early years, and it will put on at least 10 feet in the first 7 years – and that is proven by research. That is faster than any other evergreen tree. Period. Other reasons are how tough this tree is in many different climates, soils, and growing conditions. It has no significant pests or diseases, and deer usually leave it alone too. What’s not to like in all that?

What Is Thuja Green Giant Like?

Thuja Green Giant forms an upright, green bush that is always a rich, healthy green color, through all the seasons. That is why gardeners like to use it for hedges and screens, because it always blocks whatever it is you want to block – neighbors, a highway, another home, or an ugly view. It naturally grows upright, and it stays green right to the ground for many years, which is great, because it will keep blocking that view at eye-level. That doesn’t mean it stay small, as it can eventually grow 30 feet tall and 12 feet wide – and it won’t take long to do it. The first thing to remember is that if you are planting this tree and don’t plan to trim it, make sure it has room to grow. Plant it at least 6 feet away from walls, fences, existing plants, and your house. Don’t plant it beneath a window, there are lots of other dwarf evergreens for spots like that.

Thuja Green Giant will stay dense and upright, if you trim it, or if you don’t. Untrimmed it will grow taller, but you can make a very good maintenance-free barrier from it with no trimming, just so long as you have enough room for it to grow to full size.

Where Will Thuja Green Giant Grow?

Thuja Green Giant grows anywhere from zone 5 to zone 9. If you don’t know your growing zone, you can enter your postcode on this Department of Agriculture site and quickly find out. If it turns out you live in a colder zone than 5, use Emerald Green Arborvitae instead – it looks similar and is hardy in the coldest places.

As for soil, don’t worry, this tree will grow in just about any kind of soil, if it is not constantly wet. Even in wet places, if you plant your trees on a ridge of soil, they will usually adapt and thrive.

This tough tree grows best in full sun, but it will also grow well in partial shade – that is, either a place that gets a few hours of sun a day, or that is in light shade from deciduous trees or buildings.

How do I Make a Hedge or Screen with Thuja Green Giant?

For a hedge that will be solid in just a few years, space them 3 feet apart. If you are not in too much of a hurry you can space them up to 5 feet apart. Whatever you choose, space them evenly. For an untrimmed screen, space them at least 5 feet apart, and you can increase that to as much as 10 feet, if you don’t need a solid barrier in a hurry. Remember to allow room for them to grow wider, so allow at least 3 feet for a trimmed hedge, or 6 feet for an untrimmed screen, away from a path or driveway, or your property boundary.

How Do I Plant Thuja Green Giant?

If you are not used to planting trees, don’t worry – it’s easy. Prepare the ground first, by digging the ground deeply, by hand or with a roto-tiller. If you are planting just one or two trees, then dig an area about 3 feet across, a spade deep, and plant in the center of that. For a hedge or screen, it is best to dig a full row, but you can just make individual holes instead. If you use a roto-tiller go over the ground several times to till it as deeply as you can. If there are a lot of weeds, try to rake out as many roots as you can. It is best if you can add some organic material at the same time, digging it well into the soil. There are lots of suitable materials – garden compost, rotted animal manures like cow, sheep or horse, mushroom compost if it is available where you live, and peat moss or rotted leaves are good too. Use a plant starter fertilizer as well, to activate the soil and give your new trees the nutrients they need to get off to a good start.

When it comes time to plant, water your plants well the night before, and dig the holes. If you prepared the soil well, the hole only needs to be as deep as the depth of the pot. Slide the pot off the roots and take a look. If there are roots wrapping around and around inside the pot, take a sharp knife and cut from top to bottom an inch deep, through those roots at three places around the pot, and also make a cross across the bottom. Now place the tree into the hole, adding firm soil beneath it until it is at the same level as it was in the pot. Put back some of the soil, and firm it down with your feet around the root ball. Fill the hole to the top with water. Let it drain away and then put back the rest of the soil, firming it down again around the roots. Water again if the surrounding soil is dry, and you are all done.

How do I Take Care of Thuja Green Giant?

Caring for this tough tree is easy. For the first year or two, remember to water once a week all season, stopping when all the leaves are off the trees. In warm areas, if winter is dry, water from time to time. After those early years, if you water regularly you will get lots of growth, but established plants will survive all but the most extended drought. Trim or don’t trim – the choice is yours. Now that was easy.

4 Signs it’s Time to Replant your Hedge – and how to make the new one last longer

Hedges are a basic garden feature. They create privacy and a sense of enclosure, providing protection for people and plants from cold winds. So we want them to look good, but often they don’t. Sometimes a careful trim will bring them back, but sometimes an older hedge is too far gone to be saved. How to tell the difference?

A hedge should last at least 30 years, and some gardens have hedges 100 years old or more. Partly it depends on the plants used – if they can be trimmed hard back they can have a longer life – but it also depends on the maintenance given, and how the hedge was developed when young.

Here are some things to look for that will tell you if time is up for your hedge, or if it can be salvaged. If you do put in a new hedge, some of these problems can be prevented, so your new hedge will ook good for longer than the old one did.

4 Signs it’s Time to Replant your Hedge

  • Dead areas – if you have a lot of dead in a hedge, it’s probably time to replace it
  • Gaps where plants have died – it is always hard to fill these gaps in mature hedges – sounds like time to replant
  • Bare at the base – once a hedge thins at the bottom, there is no recovery. Replanting time
  • Grown too wide – sooner or later paths and drives can be obstructed. For most hedge plants, that means it needs replacing

Dead areas

There is dead, and then there is dead. If you have brown areas on the face of your hedge, take a closer look and see why. Is the brown all attached to one branch, or is it scattered? Has a plant died, so that all its interlaced branches are now brown? Are there signs of insect damage, or disease? Black, brown or reddish spots on the leaves, or growths on the stems, can indicate a disease. Bagworms will attack some hedge plants, and their nests made of twigs will be visible hanging on the branches.

If a whole plant, or several, have died, then once you take it out you will have gaps, which we will talk about lower down. If it is just branches, then often you can remove these, and the surrounding live parts will grow into the spaces in a couple of years or less, depending on their size. Obviously smaller spaces fill more quickly, and you can protect against big gaps from branches dying by trimming in all directions, not just upwards, so that the branches grow out horizontally, not in long sweeps up the hedge.

Gaps where plants have died

If you have had to remove a dead plant, or perhaps you have an older hedge that has already lost plants, these can sometimes be replaced with new ones. To get back to a perfect, uniform surface you need to know what the plants are, which can be tricky, but if you plant something similar the color and texture difference might just be ‘interesting’ – it depends on what kind of person you are. Plants beginning to die out could be a sign of an old hedge, so it can often be better to replant from scratch than keep trying to fill in gaps.

There are two key things for filling gaps – use good-sized plants and dig planting holes that are as big as possible. Set the new plants inside the hedge, so that they can grow out and fill in the space. Don’t plant them on the edge, or they can never grow properly.

When you are planting a new hedge, buy a few extra plants and put them in another part of the garden. Trim them when you trim the hedge. Then if you lose a plant or two from your hedge, you can use these spare plants. They will match perfectly, be the same age, already have some density and structure, and be used to your garden. It makes sense.

Bare at the base

This is a classic problem with hedges that have been trimmed badly. There really is no simple solution on an established hedge, so if you need that coverage and privacy it is time to plant a new hedge. This problem develops when a hedge is trimmed evenly all over. The top always grows faster than the bottom, so if you trim evenly it is inevitable that the top grows wider. Then it shades the bottom and steals food reserves, weakening the growth further. Soon the lower branches are dead, and the growth of your hedge migrates to the top.

With your new hedge, don’t make the same mistake. The face of a hedge should slope slightly inwards, so that light, water and nutrients reach the lower branches. To achieve this, you need to trim more from the upper parts than from lower down. That’s all it takes, it’s simple, but often not understood by novice trimmers.

Too wide

Over time, hedges grow. It is not possible to keep them to zero growth, although we can get close to it with regular trimming. The less often you trim, the quicker they will grow wide. Suddenly you find your car brushing against the hedge along the drive, or you can’t walk down the path anymore. Beds in front of the hedge become engulfed, and neighbors complain they can’t get down the sidewalk.

It depends on the type of plant used to make your hedge, but with most evergreens, particularly conifers, like Thuja Green Giant, Leyland Cypress, or Emerald Green Arborvitae, cannot be cut back into branches with no leaves on them. That is why regular trimming – little and often – is the best. If you have a wide hedge, you can cut back as hard as you can, always leaving some green, and then repeat that once it thickens up. This way you can certainly get back a foot or so. If the problem is bigger than that, this is another signal to replant – you will be amazed how much garden space you recover!

Some plants, like most broad-leaf evergreens, and conifers like yew trees, can be cut back to bare wood and they will re-sprout. This is why we sometimes see yew hedges that are hundreds of years old. The technique to reduce the spread of plants like this is simple. Cut back one side very hard, leaving the other side alone. In a year or two the cut-back side with have re-sprouted and be lush and green. Now you can do the other side. The whole process takes 3 to 4 years, but its still quicker than replanting. Pity it doesn’t work for everything! For other plants that have outgrown their allotted space, the only solution is to plant a nice new hedge.

Ladders for Hedge Trimming – Tripod or Orchard Ladders

In last week’s blog we took a look at safe hedge trimming, an important subject for those who value their safety – and who doesn’t? In passing we mentioned ladders, and specifically tripod ladders, a professional tool that should be in every garden. Since it got only a brief mention, it seemed that ladders, so necessary for trimming tall hedges and evergreens, was a subject that needed more discussion. So here we go. . .

What’s Wrong with My Regular Ladder?

You probably already have a conventional step-ladder, and if you do use it in the garden you will probably already be aware of the limitations. Unlike a floor, gardens are often uneven or sloping, so it’s difficult to place a step-ladder on the ground without it wobbling. Perhaps you end up placing boards or bricks under the too-short leg(s), but this is an accident waiting to happen, and unstable support is the cause of many falls from ladders. If your hedge runs alongside steps, it is particularly difficult if not impossible to get a ladder on that section, so cutting is made much more difficult.

The second problem is getting at the hedge. With four legs you must place the ladder parallel to the hedge, so you are standing facing sideways, instead of face-on. This makes it more difficult, and dangerous, to reach the top and trim it thoroughly. A relatively easy job becomes frustrating or downright impossible.

If like most gardeners you have faced these difficulties, you probably thought they were just something you had to live with, unless you were willing to work with adjustable platforms, which are large, slow to erect and take down, hard to move and often impossible in confined spaces.

Three-legged Ladders Make a Lot of Sense

The answer has been around for centuries, but oddly it is largely unknown to American gardeners. In Europe, the United Kingdom and Japan the solution is well-known, but in the USA many gardeners struggle along with their step-ladders, not realizing there is a simple answer – cut off one of the legs.

No, not from your step-ladder, Homer. The third leg must be centered at the back, and it is often adjustable in length too. Three-legged ladders solve both of the main problems with using a regular step-ladder in the garden – unevenness of the ground and facing the hedge.

These ladders are called ‘tripod ladders’, or sometimes ‘orchard ladders’, because they are also very useful for fruit-picking and general tree pruning, as well as trimming topiary and clipping any kind of evergreen or tall bush. Working around the garden is so much easier with one, and everyone is amazed by their versatility and usefulness, compared to struggling with a conventional step-ladder.

With just three legs, as long as the front two are on a level surface, the third one can be anywhere. The third leg can be leaned out at any angle, so for a down-hill slope pull it closer, and for an uphill-one lean it further away. The step section can be kept with the steps horizontal with that simple adjustment. Even easier, many models have an adjustable height on the tripod leg, so by shortening or lengthening it you keep the steps horizontal, no matter where you need to place the foot of the third leg. So uneven surfaces are no longer a problem – you can even use it along garden steps.

Even more useful is the ease with which you can slide the tripod leg inside your hedges, making it possible to climb up and face the hedge straight on. Not only is that a much safer working position, it gives you more reach onto the top, and further back. The top step is now right against the hedge, and you can use the trimmers to their maximum extent. Until you try it, you can hardly believe how much easier this is. There is only one situation where facing the hedge can be difficult, and that is on a steep slope, where the two front legs are not level enough for safety, however that is partly compensated for by the design.

What is a Tripod Ladder Like?

The front of a tripod ladder is designed for safety in the garden. Instead of sides that are parallel, they flare out, so the lowest steps are much wider than the upper ones. This creates a very stable tripod-effect and means that when you lean to one side or another, you are much safer, and there is much less chance of the ladder tipping sideways, even if it has a bit of a lean to left or right. So minor unevenness of the ground under the step legs is not the problem it can be for a conventional ladder. For a steeper slope you do need to face the ladder up or down the slope.

The third leg attaches with a hinge just below the top of the ladder, and it can be angled outward without any restraints. This raises the only safety concern. If you have smooth stone or paved surfaces in front of your hedges, then the legs can slide more easily. If the ladder has an adjustable third leg, so that you can keep the angle constant no matter if the ground falls or rises, then the leg will be chained for safety. Some manufactures supply non-slip feet for use on hard surfaces, and these are definitely worth having – and remembering to put on when needed.

Tripod ladders are available in height between 5 and 16 feet, usually in one-foot increments. Not all manufacturers will cover the full range. Some have a wider platform on that all-important ‘third step from the top’ which is the safe place to stand when working from a ladder. This is very helpful too, for extra stability and safety. On the third step from the top you can work with both arms free, without danger of tipping over.Go higher and you can fall, like tipping over a balcony with a too-low railing.

So Where Can I Buy a Tripod Ladder?

If you Google them you will see lots for sale in the United Kingdom, but they can be found in America too. A major US supplier is Hasegawa, with distributors on both coasts. An American manufacturer is Stokes Ladders, who also have a network of distributors. There are others too. Finding a ladder is not going to be much of a problem for you, wherever you live. If you are a serious gardener, you will wonder how you ever lived without one.

Trim Your Hedges Safely

With the weather warming up, the first trim of hedges, screens and specimen evergreens is on the calendar for many gardeners. Gardening is a great activity, and it is good exercise too, but there are hidden risks. Accidents are much more common than often thought, and although mowing lawns is the most dangerous activity, falls and cuts are alarmingly common too. Trimming hedges and evergreens involves ladders and sharp tools, so it pays to know what you are doing and to take care. Strangely, professionals are trained and often certified to use equipment and tools that home gardeners simply pick up at a hardware and start using with no understanding of the risks, or how to work safely. Don’t add yourself to the accident statistics.

Keep tools safe for use

Hedge trimmers are potentially dangerous, so make sure you know how to use them safely. The first step is to read the manual and pay attention to the specific safety features of your machine. All three types of trimmers – electric, gasoline and battery – have their own potential problems, and if you aren’t aware of them accidents are more likely.

  • Keep equipment maintained and sharp – clean your machine after use. Prepare it properly for winter storage. Lubricate as needed. Have the blades sharpened regularly. Depending on your machine, you may be able to learn how to do that correctly yourself, or you can take it to a professional. Sharp tools are no only safer, as they are less likely to snag, but they make clean cuts, so your hedge will look better too.
  • Check all cords and plugs – never use an electric trimmer with a damaged cord, or loose plugs. Even in a short-circuit doesn’t kill you, the shock can throw you off a ladder.
  • Never work with electricity in damp weather – if you live in an area where damp and rainy weather is common, a gasoline or battery machine may be a better choice.
  • Switch off when moving around – unplug your trimmer if it doesn’t have a safety lock. Stop a gasoline engine. Walking around or climbing ladders with a running machine is an accident waiting to happen.
  • Store in a secure place – children are fascinated by tools. Make sure they can’t get at the trimmer by storing it in a locker or locked shed.

Use Tools Safely

Just as important as keeping the tools themselves safe, is using them safely. Never be in a hurry – that’s when accidents happen. Take your time, get into the correct positions to work, operate tools safely, and wear safety equipment.

  • Wear safety goggles and gloves – flying particles and dust can get into your eyes. That happening suddenly can distract you and cause an accident, and of course the particle in your eye is already an accident. Wear gloves that give you a better grip and protect your hands. If up a ladder, wear a hard hat – professionals do it, and you can too. A hat with an integrated face shield is more comfortable than goggles.
  • Keep your feet safe – don’t work in bare feet or flipflops. When standing on the ground you can carelessly lower the tip of moving trimmers to your feet. Wear sturdy outdoor shoes – you will have a better grip on the ground, and less chance of slipping too.
  • Always keep both hands on the trimmer – this is a big one. Trimmers have a grip for the second hand – use it all the time. Not only does it allow you to balance the weight, reducing strain, but you can’t accidently get your free hand in the blade if you don’t have a hand free. If you need to stretch out single-handed to trim, move your position instead.
  • Never touch the blade while plugged in – never, ever carry a trimmer by the blade. Never try to remove something jammed in it without first unplugging or turning off.
  • Only cut thin branches – if it has been a while since you trimmed, some of the branches you need to cut may be too thick. Don’t try to hold one end with one hand, while operating the trimmer with the other, as a way to cut it. Carry hand pruners – in a holster – and use them to cut anything too thick for an easy cut with the trimmers.

Working at height

Standing on the ground and trimming is one thing – working off ladders or platforms is another thing altogether.

  • Stay on the ground – the safest approach is to invest in extendible trimmers with enough height to trim from the ground. If the blade can be tilted at an angle you can even trim the top from the ground. As well as being much safer, it is a lot faster and easier working from the ground, so you save time and effort too.
  • Use a tripod ladder – If you need to use a ladder, regular step-ladders are not ideal. Tripod ladders, also called orchard ladders, with flared bases and a single back leg, are much safer. The flared base reduces the chance of tipping, and the single leg allows you to put the ladder facing the hedge, instead of sideways. The tripod leg fits right inside the hedge. This is a much easier working position, especially for trimming the top. If you have trees to prune too, you will find that so much easier with a tripod ladder. These are the choice of professionals, but strangely rarely used by home gardeners.
  • Stop the feet sinking in the ground – on soft ground the feet of a ladder can easily sink in. If that happens when you are up it, the ladder can easily tip. Have a board of a suitable size to place underneath the feet. Not only will that prevent sinking, it will give you a more stable base. Have a few small pieces with you to level it as necessary. Tripod ladders don’t have an anchor on the third leg, and usually don’t need support – they are designed for soft surfaces, and they can be dangerous if used on asphalt or pathways. Have a regular step-ladder as well for those situations.
  • Never climb an unstable ladder – always keep the base of a ladder horizontal. If it is crooked it will tip with your weight on top. Falls are a major gardening accident, and they can be serious if not fatal.

All these things are common sense, but it is amazing how often people get themselves into dangerous situations. Bravado and taking risks seems to be a ‘guy thing’, but staying alive, with all your fingers attached, is a ‘guy thing’ too!

Putting a Trench Under a Hedge

One of the most frustrating events for any gardener proud of their hedge is when they learn that a service such as water, drainage, sewage, electricity or cables must be laid under that hedge that has been developed and perfected over many years. Carefully watered, trimmed, fertilized and perhaps treated for threatening pests. There are many reasons why these services need to be installed. It could be a new service, or the renovation of an old one, or the replacement of one system with another – for example new fiber optics. There is no way to avoid it – they must pass underground directly beneath that lovely, established hedge. What a shame! You are now faced, you think, with years of re-building, because the usual approach to running a trench under a hedge is to dig out two or three of the plants, to make enough room for trenching equipment to pass through. In this blog we will look at a newer technique that makes it possible to run conduit, drains and other services underneath a hedge without disturbing the plants. Let’s take a look.

The Standard Approach

Once the service is then installed, and the soil replaced, there are two options. Some people try to put back the original plants, but in an established hedge those plants will have a very specific shape, the result of years of trimming, and even lining them up correctly again can be difficult. Much more important, it is very hard to remove an established tree in a hedge with a good root-ball. The roots are just too entwined with the trees on either side, and the tree has been in place too long to achieve this without a couple of years preparation. Consequently, an inadequate root-ball is prepared, the tree is often treated poorly while it waits for re-planting, and often allowed to dry out accidently. In most cases these trees that are confidently put back simply decline over a period of months, or even a year or two, before finally dying. They almost never restore the hedge or eliminate that nasty gap.

The second alternative is to put in new plants. This is usually a far better option. If the hedge is not too tall, and large replacement plants are used, in a few years they can grow in well and hide the space. But it does take a few years. If this is a 10-foot tall hedge, or more, you can easily be looking at upwards of five years for even a large plant to fill in well.

Getting a Good Match

There is another issue too. Are you sure you know exactly the plant species and variety that was used for this hedge? If you don’t, then the new plants will not perform in the same way. The color will be different. They will start and end growth at the beginning and end of the season at separate times. They will have a different growth habit, and a different visual texture. Rather than the smooth, continuous texture and color we look for in a hedge, it will look like a patch-job, always different. If you cannot get a reasonably close identification of the plant used, then you may not even get close to matching at all, and as the trees mature you will have a totally different look in that area.

An Alternative Approach

All in all, none of these options look too promising, and they all involve a lot of handling of large plants, expense, and lots of time – with no certain outcome. What to do? Luckily there is a relatively new tool on the market, often already in the possession of landscapers and arborists who do transplanting. It’s called an Air Spade.

An air spade is a simple piece of equipment. It’s a hollow lance perhaps 6 feet long, with a spray nozzle on the end. The other end has a trigger control and is connected to an air compressor through a hose. To be effective pressures of 90 pounds per square inch, and air-flow of 200 to 300 cubic feet per minute are used, but the secret is in the nozzle, which is designed to deliver an almost laser-like air blast, the cuts into the soil.

This equipment was first developed in the 1980s, but it has only been in the last decade or so that landscapers have begun to use it. The biggest use is for transplanting larger trees and shrubs, which can be done much more effectively with an air spade than by traditional digging. The air spade is used to peel away the soil from the roots, so that almost all of the root system can be exposed, and with a minimal amount of cutting it can be lifted from the ground. This is much lighter than regular dug root balls, so transport is much easier. The roots can then be spread out again in a large hole, the tree staked, and transplanting is successful and easier much more often than by traditional methods.

Trenching with an Air Spade

No, the idea here is not to use an air spade to remove the plants from the hedge, but to use it to dig the trench. That’s right. Air spades are widely used today by utility companies to access services for repair more quickly, and thus more cheaply. They are increasingly being used to dig trenches under street trees too, which brings us back to our original hedge problem.

If the trench for the drains, new sewage system, installing a water supply, etc. is dug with an air-spade, then it is possible to dig right under the hedge, between two trunks, without disturbing the root system very much at all. The picture at the lead of this blog shows you how much root is left after trenching close to trees. The same technique can be used through a hedge. The trees will not be disturbed, and the conduit or drain-pipe is threaded through the trench under the roots, with minimal cutting required. Once the soil is replaced, life continues as normal, as if nothing has happened at all.

So Next Time You Need to Do This. . .

Air spades are widely available today with many contractors and arborists. So if you find yourself needing to run a service through a hedge, tell your contractor you want them to use an air spade, instead of digging a traditional trench. It should not be hard to find a local contractor who has the equipment and staff to do it. No more dead trees and years of waiting for your beautiful hedge to be repaired, usually with limited success. This equipment can also be used for trenching near trees, and it has saved many specimens from serious damage. Let’s protect our hedges and trees, by encouraging contractors to use air spades instead of traditional, destructive trenching equipment.