Thuja Green Giant in Windbreaks

Many larger gardens benefit from windbreaks. If you live in an exposed location – either to wind, snow, or both, then a properly designed windbreak will create a haven of calmness and shelter, in which your garden – and your family too – will flourish. A sheltered location creates a micro-climate, which is an area where the seasons are a little longer, the growing conditions more hospitable, and where a greater variety of plants can be grown. A windbreak, or shelter belt, is different from a screen, which is just planted for privacy. A screen is usually a row, or at most a double row, of a single type of plant, and although a dense screen will have some effect on wind, and slow it down a little, its benefits will not be as great as you might think. A properly-planted windbreak has several different kinds of plants in it, to slow the wind gradually, and over a much larger area, than a single row of trees can ever possibly do.

Of course, a windbreak takes up more room, and it may not be possible in a smaller garden, but if you have the room for one, the space it takes up will be balanced by the benefits it brings. When choosing plants for it, Thuja Green Giant stands out as a number one choice for the vital core component, so let’s look at windbreaks, and how this fantastic plant can become an integral part of yours.

Thuja Green Giant in a Windbreak

  • Fast-growing for the central core rows
  • Tough, reliable and hardy
  • Provides internal shelter as the other rows develop
  • Needs no trimming to maintain the correct density

What are the Benefits of a Windbreak?

While it’s obvious that a windbreak slows windspeed, the benefits of that effect are much more extensive than you might imagine. Speeds are typically reduced between 50% and 90%, depending on the actual speed. By reducing wind-chill, heating costs in your home are reduced substantially, by up to 44% in studies. The garden is enjoyable to be in for more days of the year, a big bonus for family pleasure. Crop yields from your vegetable and fruit gardens will increase dramatically, as well as the quality of the crop, especially fruits. You will be able to succeed with a greater variety of crops, and any animals you are raising will grow faster and be healthier. Wild-life such as birds will benefit, from the increased nesting-sites, food sources, and winter shelter, as will many other animals and beneficial insects.

How do I Create a Good Windbreak?

A 35-foot windbreak creates a shelter zone up to 1,000 feet away, but since the effect is minimal towards the end of that range, the effective protected zone is upwards of 500 feet. So when locating windbreaks, plan on that as the area that will be protected. Find out where the prevailing and strongest winds come from, and place the windbreak at right-angles to that direction. If strong winds are likely to come from more than one direction, you may need a curved or angled windbreak. To be effective in preventing the wind simply coming around the planting, it should be at least ten times as long as the expected height of the trees in it.

A windbreak consists of several rows of trees and bushes, with taller ones in the middle and shorter ones on the outsides. Three to five rows are normal, and these are spaced 20 feet apart for the taller plants, and 15 feet apart for the smaller ones. Within the rows, taller plants go 12 feet apart, and smaller ones can be as close as 6 feet from each other. Perhaps surprisingly, the goal is not to create a solid wall, but rather a filter to the wind. Too solid a planting will cause turbulence, which can be worse than the original wind. 50% final density is about right, so plants should not go too close together.

Thuja Green Giant as the Core of a Windbreak

The two central rows of a windbreak are usually a row of deciduous trees and a row of evergreens. It is as that core row of evergreens, which is perhaps the most critical row of all, that Thuja Green Giant is the perfect choice. Only in the coldest places would another choice be needed. With its extraordinary rapid growth, it will itself create shelter for the slower-growing plants in the other rows, acting as a nurse to their growth. Its upright habit, combined with good width and density, makes it idea for the core of any windbreak, providing 365-days a year strength and stability to any planting. At 12 foot spacing in the rows, they will give just the right density for ideal wind filtering.

For a simple but effective windbreak, plant two rows of Thuja Green Giant, 40 feet apart, with a suitable deciduous tree as a row down the middle. Finish off with a row on either side of a mix of medium-sized evergreen and deciduous shrubs, preferably with flowers and berries.

You won’t need to trim Thuja Green Giant for good structure, so they will grow as rapidly as they can. In trials at the University of Arkansas, tiny starter-plants reached an amazing 10 feet in just 7 years, way ahead of anything else in their trial plantings. Before you know it, your windbreak will be looking great, and starting to do its job.  The other plants will grow faster too, with the shelter it provides. Because it is free of pests and diseases, it will never need any special care, and after some initial watering in the first season, it will take care of itself. The plants in a windbreak all need to be self-reliant, naturally sturdy, drought-resistant and reliable. Thuja Green Giant tops the list in all those qualities.

So when you come to create a windbreak for your property, to give yourself the best garden experience you can have, make sure that Thuja Green Giant is at the heart of it – a choice you will never regret.

Keep Your Hedge Green to the Ground

Thuja Green Giant is a very popular hedging plant, partly for its amazingly rapid growth, but also for it hardiness and how easy it is to make great hedges and screens with this terrific plant. Once your hedge is growing strongly – and that won’t take long – it’s time to settle into some long-term care, and that is where some gardeners need a hand in doing things right. If you make mistakes – and we all can – then you might end up with a hedge that is less than you dreamed about.

There is one problem that we see quite often on older hedges, after the first 5 or so years of regular trimming. The lower part of the hedge has started to thin out, and all the growth is at the top. Gradually the lowest branches die, causing bare spots to develop, and they just don’t seem to re-sprout. Eventually you end up with a hedge that has a couple of feet of bare trunk along the bottom, even though the upper parts are green and healthy. Gardeners often ask why this has happened, and the reason is usually the same – poor trimming habits. There is not much that can be done to bring back that growth once it goes, so if you want the maximum life from your hedges, trimming properly from the start is the secret. Let’s look at the commonest reasons why Thuja hedges become thin and bare at the bottom. The good news is, it doesn’t have to happen to you if you follow a few simple rules.

Plant Far Enough Apart

This is essential when you plant your hedge. Some people are so anxious for a solid hedge they pack the plants root-ball to root-ball. That is a mistake, because the plants respond to the shade that makes by immediately growing up, not out, and the bottom doesn’t get a chance to thicken and develop at all. Allow at least 3 feet between the plants, so that there is room and light to build a solid base for your hedge. Don’t worry, Thuja Green Giant is so vigorous and fast-growing, it is going to fill in sooner than you thought possible.

Start Trimming Early

This is a big part of the secret to a solid, dense hedge right to the ground. Don’t wait until your hedge reaches the height you want, start trimming lightly as soon as it begins to grow, shortly after you have planted it. Just take a couple of inches off at a time, so that you get lots of small branches developing close in to the main stems. As these grow they will give you a dense structure that will stay that way for many, many years. Don’t forget to trim the top a little too, you want thick all the way up.

Allow Enough Width for Development

Nobody want their hedge to take up the whole garden, so we always want to keep it thin, not allow it to spread too wide. But we must be reasonable, and allow enough thickness for the branches to develop a dense structure. Especially at the bottom, it must be wide enough to support the smaller branches that give us a thick hedge. When planting, reckon on a mature width of at least 3 feet, and remember that gradually, over time, it will add ½ an inch a year, so eventually that will become 4 feet, no matter how tightly and carefully you trim.

Trim Your Hedge with a Sloping Face

Although we are talking about this one last, it is the most important one, and it’s an easy one too. When your Thuja Green Giant bushes grow, they want to grow tall, and a lot of their energy will go to the top of the plant. So growth in the top couple of feet will always be stronger, and the shoots longer, than lower down. This is a big part of why, eventually, the bottom starts to thin out, as more and more water and food goes to the greedy upper parts. When we come to trim, we need to take more growth from the top than from lower down, to push that growth back down into the lower branches. If you trim off the same amount all over the hedge the upper part will start to bulge out, taking the lion’s share of the energy, and also shading the lower growth, which just makes the problem worse. The answer is simple. When you are trimming, cut more from the upper parts than the lower ones, so that the side is flat, but it is leaning inwards by a few degrees.

Some professional hedge-trimmers make a simple structure with a few pieces of wood as a guide. Take three pieces of wood, one 6 feet long, one 3 feet long and one 6 feet 8 ½ inches long. Join them together to make a triangle. You will see it has a right-angle in one corner, but if you attach the 6-foot piece at a point 6 to 7 inches inside the corner of the 3-foot piece, that 6-foot piece will make an angle of about 80 degrees to the vertical, not 90 degrees. If you hold the resulting triangle up to the hedge, with the small piece horizontal on the ground, that is the perfect slope for the front of your hedge. Just lean it against the hedge as you trim, and you will always keep the same slope, no matter how big your hedge is.

If that sounds too complex, don’t worry. Most hedge-trimmers just judge it by eye, looking for a slight inward lean, and with a bit of practice that is the best way for all but the most formal, large hedges. If you can see the hedge from one end, and you have trimmed it correctly, you will see that the side has a uniform inward slope. It is hardly visible at all when you look at the hedge straight on.

That Was Easy

If you follow these simple rules, your hedge will be the envy of your friends and neighbors. When they ask how you did it, just pass on the link to this blog. Thanks!

Maximize the Growth of Thuja Green Giant

Thuja Green Giant is known for its rapid growth. This is a major reason why so many people are choosing it for screens and hedges – besides its beautiful green foliage and attractive appearance. But of course, just how much growth it produces in a year is not fixed. Some people might complain that their plants didn’t grow as fast as they were ‘supposed to’, but the causes can almost always be traced back to the way they were grown, not to the plants themselves. There are several things you can do to speed things up, and get that hedge of your dreams as soon as possible.

Ways to Speed-up the Growth of Thuja Green Giant

  • Prepare the soil well
  • Water regularly
  • Have a fertilizer program
  • Trim lightly from the beginning

Let’s look at each of these ideas in turn.

Prepare the Soil Well

The secret to good growth of all plants is in the soil. The difference between success and mediocre results is how much attention you pay to preparing it for the plants you put into it. Some people even say you should spend as much on the soil as you do on the plants, although in truth that is not necessary. None the less, it does get across the idea that making your soil better is as important as choosing good plants.

The first step in preparing the soil is to dig it. You can do this by hand, with a spade or fork, or you can use a rototiller. If you use a tiller – which will save a lot of time – then rent the biggest you can operate. Many people who use tillers do a bad job, because the machine will trick you by making the top layer of soil look nice, while doing nothing just a few inches down. You need to dig 12 inches deep if possible, which is the full depth of a full-sized spade, and the depth when the tines of the tiller are completely buried in the ground. It might take you several runs along the area to get it that deep, but it is important to do it.

Prepare the area for a hedge at least 3 feet wide. The purpose of making the soil loose over a large area is to make it easy for the plants to quickly send out their roots into the soil in search of food and water. Only new roots can take up those vital things, so plants need to constantly be growing into new soil. If that soil is hard and compacted, they will need more time to do that, and may even not be able to do it at all.

As well as digging, it’s best to add some kind of rich organic material to the soil. All soils benefit from it, from sandy ones to heavy clay. In sand, organic material holds water and adds nutrients as it decays. In clay, it also adds nutrients, but even more importantly, its coarse texture opens up the soil, allowing water to escape and air to enter. It doesn’t really matter a lot exactly what material you use, although most gardeners agree that rotted animal manures – cow, sheep or horse – are the richest and give the fastest growth. But home-made compost, rotted leaves, and peat-moss all do a similar job. Dig into the soil a layer between 1 and 4 inches deep, and mix it well down into the soil. Once your plants are growing you can replenish that organic content – which disappears over time, simply by mulching with it in spring. A layer a couple of inches thick is enough for that job.

Water Regularly

Now you are ready to plant, it is time to water. Begin by watering the pots the night before – if the root-ball is dry when you plant, there is a danger it will stay that way even after you water the ground. For a hedge the best approach to planting is to dig a trench a little wider than the pots, along the line you want. This makes spacing out evenly and getting the row straight a lot easier. Once you have the plants in the trench, put back most of the soil, firming it down around the roots. Now flood the trench with water – that way you get it right down into the soil. Once it has drained away, put back the rest of the soil. Mulch over the root area – but not against the trunks – will help conserve moisture. Water twice a week for the first month, then once a week after that for the rest of the season. Even if it rains, water anyway, as rain often does not penetrate dry soil very deeply at all.

To maximize the growth in the years that follow, weekly watering from spring to fall will give the fastest growth. Only if your soil drains poorly can you over-water with a weekly soaking. A porous irrigation pipe makes watering very easy. Just connect it to a regular hosepipe, turn it on, and let the water flow for several hours – until the area is thoroughly wet. Try digging a hole in the earth after you think they have watered enough. You might be surprised to see that only the top few inches are wet. If that is true, water longer.

Have a Fertilizer Program

Even with that soil preparation and watering, using a hedge fertilizer will accelerate the growth even more. It really doesn’t matter very much what type you use – solid or liquid, but the simplest to use is a slow-release form that is applied once in spring for the whole season. These can cost more, but the saving in time might be worth it to you. Whatever you use, follow the directions carefully. Giving too much is worse than giving too little, and if you don’t continue through the season, much of the benefit will be lost.

Trim Lightly from the Beginning

It might seem counter-intuitive to trim plants before they reach the size you want – surely, they will get there more slowly if I do that? Not really. Taking an inch or two off the ends of the branches every couple of months in the early years will thicken up the growth, and encourage more shoots to develop. You will reach the final height with denser growth more quickly. A few wispy stems getting there first doesn’t really count now, does it?


If you follow these simple steps, your Thuja Green Giant hedge will grow the fastest it can for you. Before you know it, the hedge of your dreams will be yours.

A Hidden Path to Easy Hedge Trimming

When it comes to hedges, Thuja Green Giant stands alone. Faster growing, hardy and disease-resistant, with perfect green foliage every day of the year, it is the premium choice for hedging. Like all hedges, to keep it neat and trim, and to keep it green right to the ground, it needs regular trimming. In some gardens this can be a problem, because you have shrubs and flowers planted in front of the hedge. This effect – of flowers in front of a perfect trimmed wall of green, is a garden classic, but making it work is not so easy. Walking through beds to trim a hedge, and putting up ladders, can cause a lot of damage to flowers and more delicate bushes, and collecting the trimmings can cause even more damage. Also, the trimming goes more slowly, and can become frustrating.

As well, the roots of the hedge spread out sideway beyond the hedge, and they love to grow in the rich soil we prepare for our flower beds, and the mulch we put around roses and flowering shrubs. This means that the shrubs and flowers grow less vigorously, as the hedge takes water and nutrients away from them. In addition, the shadow of the hedge causes the plants to lean away from it, towards the light.

The Hidden Path

What to do? This problem has been around as long as hedges have been made, and in the past there was a simple solution, which seems to have been lost. So lost is it that you won’t find a single image of this on the internet, or a description of how to build it. Sometimes in exploring older gardens you might come across this trick, but you probably won’t have noticed it unless you explore ‘behind the scenes’. Maybe the absence of images is because in big gardens, even the owners weren’t aware of this trick, put in by the gardeners, because you really can’t see it when you stand in front of the beds. Visitors won’t see it either.

What is this secret way to enjoy the beauty of flowers, roses and shrubs displayed against the perfect green backdrop of a lush, trimmed hedge? It’s easy . . . a hidden path. Yes, by simply running a narrow path between the hedge and the bed, you have instant access for trimming, without trampling on anything, and with the space to easily put up a ladder. When you come to clean up, the trimmings are easy to rake up from a hard surface, and the whole job goes faster. The path also creates distance between the hedge and the bed, reducing root invasion from the hedge, and allowing the plants to grow straight and strong, not weakly and leaning over towards the light.

Making a Hidden Path

What you are going to do is run a pathway right up against the hedge, and put a bed on the other side of the path. Sounds simple? That’s because it is. The path should be narrow – usually no more than 3 feet wide, and it’s construction can be very simple too, since it really isn’t seen from the garden itself. If you use a ladder to trim your hedge, make sure the path is wide enough to be able to stand it up parallel to the hedge, and wide enough to get a wheel-barrow along. Narrow is good, as it makes the path harder to see.

For a surface, you can use almost anything. Perhaps you have some left-over pavers, or some simple concrete slabs. You don’t even need a paved surface. Spread some gravel over the soil and run a vibrator over it all so the gravel beds-down into the soil surface. Don’t use mulch or anything like that – you want a surface you can easily rake to get up the hedge trimmings.

This walkway can be put in at any time, but it is best to do it when you develop the bed in front of the hedge. If the hedge is newly-planted, or young, remember to allow some space for it to expand to its final width. That is another thing – the walkway gives you an automatic line to trim the hedge perfectly flat and even. Make sure you lay the path straight to get that result.

There is also a secret to making this pathway less visible. Build a low wall – perhaps 6 or 8 inches tall – along the bed side. Again, this can be made of almost anything. Eight-inch planks of pressure-treated lumber nailed to short stakes works well and is low-cost. When you prepare in the bed, and finish off the surface before planting, grade it backwards so that it ends up the height of the low wall. You don’t want to see the wall from the front of the bed. Now, when you stand in front, most of the path will be hidden by the slope of the bed. This slope also improves the drainage in the bed. You will get good concealment once the plants in the bed grow. Be sure to plant right up to the back edge of the bed, so that some plants overhang the path a little. Once they have grown a little, the path will be invisible.

Easy Hedge Trimming

Now, instead of the time-consuming chore of picking your way among shrubs and flowers, trying not to damage them, you have complete, easy access to the hedge, for both trimming and cleaning up. The job will go quickly, with no hassles, and your flowers will be completely untouched. Reviving this lost trick will make your life so much simpler, and your garden so much more enjoyable.

Is Thuja Green Giant the Right Choice for Me?

Putting in a hedge is a big decision. Besides the cost, there is the work of preparing the ground, planting, caring for the plants during the vital first season, and then trimming and training until it matures. That hedge will be with you for a long time, and it will be a big part of what you see in your garden. It makes sense to think it through and get it right. Thuja Green Giant is a very popular hedge plant – currently perhaps the most popular of all, across a large part of the country. It grows well in many different locations and climate zones, and it is tough, fast-growing and reliable. That doesn’t mean it is necessarily what you want for your particular circumstances, so let’s go through some of the things you should consider when making your decision.

Where Do You Live?

Thuja Green Giant is a hardy evergreen that will grow where winter temperatures fall to as much as minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit, or Zone 5. If you live in a colder zone, such as Zones 3 or 4, then this is not the plant you want. Instead, make your hedge with the Emerald Green Arborvitae, which is hardy to minus 40, so stands just about anything the American climate can throw at it. If you live in the coldest states, that plant should definitely be your hedge choice.

Also, if you live in a very hot area, where access to water is limited, and you will probably not be able to water your hedge very much or at all, the consider using the Italian Cypress for your hedge. This tree is very drought and heat resistant, and has attractive dark-green foliage that trims well into a beautiful hedge.

How Soon Do You Want a Hedge?

If speed is what you are looking for, then with Thuja Green Giant you have absolutely come to the right place. Trials at the University of Arkansas, pitting many different hedging plants against each other, proved scientifically that this is the fastest hedge plant on the planet. They started with very small plants, and in 7 years they were 10 feet tall and dense too. They only gave some water, and with a full fertilizer program, you can beat that with your hedge by a year or maybe two. So for the fastest mature hedge possible, Green Giant is definitely the number one choice.

What is Your Soil Like?

Thuja Green Giant will grow well in all kinds of soil, from sand to clay, and in acid or alkaline soils. So, it really doesn’t matter much what kind of soil you have. There is just one thing to think about, and that is if your soil stays wet most of the time. Soils that are always wet contain no air, and air is essential for healthy roots on your Green Giant hedge. Wet soil is not suitable for growing this plant, and your hedge will not do well.

There are several things you can do in this situation. Emerald Green Arborvitae is much more water-tolerant, and wild forms often grow naturally in wetlands. That makes it is a good alternative, as long as you are not in a very hot area. Bald Cypress, Taxodium distichum, is excellent in wet areas in the hottest states, but it does lose its leaves in winter. Alternatively, since Thuja Green Giant is such a good choice for so many other reasons, consider two possibilities:

  1. If your soil is often wet, build a low mound, 8 to 12 inches tall, by removing soil from either side of the hedge-line. That also creates a shallow ditch on either side for water to collect in. The mound will stay drier, and this will usually allow the plants to grow well and thrive.
  2. If the soil is always very wet and even flooded, then you can install drainage along the hedge-line. Bury a drainage pipe on either side of the hedge-line, and take the pipe to a spot where the water can drain away, such as a lower-lying area.

How Much Sun Will It Get?

Here we usually have no problems, because Thuja Green Giant will grow well in full sun, and in shade down to about 50% brightness. So if you have some shade, or shade for only part of the day, then you have no worries, and your new hedge will thrive. If the area is permanently in shade, then consider planting Skip Laurel, Prunus laurocerasus, which is a handsome evergreen shrub with glossy oval leaves. It is fast-growing and easily trimmed to any height you need. In colder areas, Canadian Hemlock, Tsuga canadensis, makes a wonderful hedge in full shade, with soft foliage and a gentle beauty.

Do You Live by the Ocean?

Here the news is all good. Thuja Green Giant is resistant to ocean salt drift, and since it is also happy in sandy soil, it will grow well at the coast in all but the most exposed locations. Salt-heavy winds blowing in will not bother it at all – which is also true of salt drifting from highways in winter, so it’s great to know you have made the right choice.

Do You Have Deer Visiting?

We all love Bambi, but not so much when he comes visiting in winter, feeling hungry. Lots of hedging plants are eaten by deer, so you have good reason to worry. The good news is that Thuja Green Giant is one of the top plants for deer-resistance, and although deer can be unpredictable, you can be confident that you will not have a problem with them if you choose this hedge plant.


So now you have a better idea if you are making the right choice, and you can feel more confident that you will enjoy seeing a great hedge develop quickly on your property, giving you privacy, tranquility and shelter.

Put Color into Your Thuja Hedge

Everybody loves their Thuja Green Giant hedge. It is always lush and green, creating a perfect backdrop to the rest of your garden. But what if your hedge could be its own garden? Imagine a hedge where flowers emerged from the green wall, or colored sections broke up the long wall of green in interesting and novel ways. Seems like a dream? Not really. There are some simple things you can do that turn your hedge into something more than a backdrop, and make it an integral part of the ever-changing picture of flowers and foliage that make gardens so lovely. Interested? Then read on. . .

Basic Ways to Color Your Hedge

The idea of mixing plants together in a hedge is not new, but it is seen more in Europe than America. It is an interesting and attractive way to create a colorful and changing hedge that becomes a garden feature, not a background to the other features. These hedges are often called Tapestry Hedges, and the idea is to plant different hedging plants among the main plants of your hedge. So, when you come to lay out your Thuja Green Giant Hedge, replace some of the plants with something else, with a different color and texture of foliage. This can be subtle, using shades of green, or more pronounced, using stronger colors of blue, gold or red. If privacy is a big consideration, then you will want to stick to evergreens, but if not, then deciduous plants are possible choices. Using deciduous plants also opens up the possibility of having sections of your hedge bloom with flower-color too.

It is best and simplest to put in these different plants when you plant the hedge. They can be alternated, as was done with the hedge in the picture at the top of this piece, or they can be random substitutions, even with several different plants. Once you have established a hedge it becomes more difficult, but as long as the plants are not too large to move, and it is spring or fall when you do it, then you can remove some existing plants to develop a new area, and then fill the gaps with new trees of a different type.

Here are some ideas for plants to consider:

  • Different Shades of Green and Texture
    • Italian Cypress – rich dark green foliage on a tough, drought-resistant plant
    • Spartan Juniper – a tough and sturdy grower with a deeper green color
    • Holly – evergreen for privacy, and often used alone as a hedge, varieties such as the American Holly, or the Nelly Stevens Holly, will grow through the Thuja, mottling it with shiny rich-green areas
  • Blue Highlights
    • Blue Spruce – always reliable, many people don’t realize that spruce can be turned into a formal hedge. This perennial favorite is very cold-hardy, as well as heat-resistant
    • Blue Italian Cypress – this rare variation on the Italian Cypress has a blue tone to its foliage that will heighten the contrast with the Thuja
    • Blue Spanish Fir – a wonderful rich blue color that will really stand out
    • Arizona Cypress – also blue, this cypress tree thrives under adverse conditions, just like Thuja Green Giant does 
  • Golden Highlights
    • Gold Spanish Fir – you will love how the golden needles on this tree sparkle among the green of your Thuja hedge
  • Red Highlights
    • Smoke Tree – we have to move into deciduous plants to get red, but the result will be worth it. With its spreading habit, just where the red ends up will be unpredictable, adding to the fun 
  • Flowering Plants
    • Yoshino Flowering Cherry – as this tree grows, spring will suddenly bring pink flowers garlanding the face of your hedge – wonderful!
    • Cleveland Pear – as tough as the Thuja you mix it with, and bringing white flowers in early spring to the green wall around your garden

Other Possibilities for Color in Your Hedge

If you already have a mature hedge, so can’t insert other hedge plants, it doesn’t mean you are out of luck. Fast-growing climbing plants can be tucked in the spaces between the trunks of the hedge, and they will soon climb up and burst into bloom. The best choices are plants that flower on new shoots, because then they can be cut down to the ground in fall to allow for easy hedge trimming at that time, or in spring before the climbers get going. Fast-growing annual climbers will twine through a hedge, flower, and then can be removed in fall. Many climbers have brilliant flower colors, and purples, reds, pinks and golds are all possibilities.

When doing this, it is important to dig a good-sized planting hole, and use plenty of water and fertilizer for the climbers, otherwise they will not be able to compete with the roots of the hedge for nutrients and water. Depending on the layout of your garden, you can also plant them a few feet from the hedge and lead them up to it on a short pole.

Here are some climbing plant that will grow tall in one season and flower profusely:

  • Clematis – these well-known climbers have some varieties, like the ever-popular ‘Jackmanii’ (rich purple flowers), that will bloom on new growth each year. They can take 2 or 3 seasons to become established and perform at their best, but their large, flat flowers really look spectacular. Cut them to the ground each fall.
  • Morning Glory – if you grow these from seed, by summer they will already be blooming, and can be pulled down in fall for pruning the hedge
  • Cypress Vine – in warmer areas this vine (Ipomoea quamoclit) will grow as a perennial, but young plants from seed will grow large and bloom with brilliant red flowers in the space of a single season. The similar Cardinal Climber (Ipomoea sloteri) is more vigorous for a tall hedge
  • Canary Creeper – for fascinating golden blooms on your hedge, plant this annual climber (Tropaeolum peregrinum). It has interesting rounded leaves, but the real beauty lies in the clusters of flaring flowers in bright yellow

Is Thuja Green Giant the Right Plant for Me?

Deciding on which plant to use as a hedge or screen is a big decision. Its appearance is going to be a major part of the backdrop to your garden, and its success will pave the way for success with the plants protected by it. This means it is worth taking some time to make sure you have made the right decision. Thuja Green Giant is currently the most popular hedging and screening plant, across most of the country. It has earned that position with its toughness, adaptability and speed of growth – all areas where it excels. But that doesn’t mean it is right for everyone, so let’s look at the different parameters that you should consider when making your final choice.

Your Location

What climate zone do you live in? The Green Giant is happy anywhere from zone 5, where winter lows can fall to minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit, all the way into zone 9, where winter lows dip just a little below freezing, to plus 20 degrees, and then only for short periods. So if it sounds like you live in that broad belt, you have made the right choice. If you fall outside those zones, then there are better choices open to you. The Emerald Green Arborvitae, a selected form of the Eastern White Cedar, is as hardy as it comes, living happily when winter lows dip to a polar-bear friendly minus 50 degrees. This plant makes a great hedge, and should be your choice for cold areas.

If, at the other extreme, you live where it rarely if ever freezes, and you want an evergreen hedge with the fine texture of Thuja Green Giant, then the Italian Cypress, Cupressus sempervirens, should be your ‘go to’. The hotter the better for that plant, and it needs no cool winter period to keep it healthy, as the Green Giant does. It does thrive best in hot, dry climates, like southern California. In the heat and humidity of southern Florida, an even better choice is the Leyland Cypress, or the Spartan Juniper. Speaking of Junipers, if you live in a very dry area, where watering is going to be a problem, then give some serious thought to the Arizona Cypress, Cupressus arizonica ‘Carolina Sapphire’. This tree produces an extremely drought-tolerant and striking hedge.

Your Soil

Here things are easy. If you have almost any kind of soil, from a very sandy one, all the way through to sticky clay, Thuja Green Giant will perform well. In very dry soil you may need to water more often, and the only problem could be in very wet soils. This great tree is happy in soil that is wet from time to time, but not if it is permanently flooded or always saturated. Over time, this will lead to problems, so if you have this problem where you need a hedge, consider something surprising. Most people know the Bald Cypress, Taxodium distichum, which grows wild in the Everglades, among other places. It can be clipped into a formal hedge easily, and makes a gorgeous, soft-textured screen. It will grow right in shallow water, and flooded soils are just what it loves best. The only disadvantage is that it loses it leaves in winter, leaving instead a dense screen of branches. This is attractive too, but doesn’t give the same level of privacy.

Sun or Shade?

Consider how much sun your plants are going to get. Remember that shade from deciduous trees is not a problem in winter, and in summer, when the sun is high, they cast only a narrow shadow. If your Thuja Green Giant hedge gets sun for half the dy from spring to early fall, then it will be perfectly happy. It will grow well in full sun too of course, so unless you have a deeply shady area where you need a hedge, you will be find with this versatile tree.

Should you find that you do need a hedge for deep shade, there are several choices. For a finer texture, nothing beats the Canadian Hemlock, Tsuga canadensis. This shade-loving evergreen has soft, fine leaves that clip into a superb hedge, even in areas that get no direct sun at all. Other choices include the various Yew Trees, that also make dense hedges in all conditions, from full sun to full shade.

You Need a Fast-Growing Hedge

If this is your need, then you certainly have made the right choice. In trials by the University of Kansas, who weren’t selling anything to anyone, Thuja Green Giant grew faster than any other plant they tested in a large study. From small plants, they grew into upright columns10 feet tall and 5 feet wide in the space of just 7 years. That is remarkable, and means that with a growth rate of 3 feet a year in the early years, most of that growth in height happens in 3 to 4 years. After that your hedge or screen with thicken and fill in, especially if you trim it lightly from Day One. A regular annual trim, or perhaps twice a year if you want a very neat hedge, is all that is needed once you have established the height and thickness you want. The only mistake some people make is to let their hedge just grow and grow, until suddenly they realize it needs more than just a trim. Sadly, if you cut back into wood that has no foliage, those branches will not sprout, and all your work will be wasted. Begin to trim lightly from the first year, including on the sides, and build a dense structure, adding height at ‘only’ a couple of feet a year. The top-quality result you see will show you it was worth it.

Planning Your Thuja Green Giant Hedge

Ah, so you have decided to put in a hedge or screen of Thuja Green Giant. Good choice! Not only is this the fastest-growing evergreen available, it is also one of the most adaptable to climate and soil. It is hardy to minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit, so it will grow happily in zone 5. If you live in colder zones, then a better choice is the Emerald Green Arborvitae, which grows well in chilly zones 3 and 4 – it’s not too late to change your choice!

Besides being cold-resistant, Thuja Green Giant also thrives in heat, and in addition it is both humidity and drought resistant. Wherever you live, from the humid South to the drier Mid-West and Texas, this tough plant will grow through all the warmer zones, including zone 9. That means that unless you live in the southern part of Florida, or around San Diego, California, you can relax. Your Green Giant Hedge is going to grow vigorously and well, wherever you live.

As for soil, it really doesn’t matter much at all. You have sandy soil? Fine. Clay soil? No problem. Something in-between? Nothing to worry about at all. Even if your soil is often wet, that won’t matter either. The only limitation is constantly wet and flooded soil, which does not suit Thuja Green Giant. One idea if you have a wet area, is to build a ridge of soil about 3 feet wide, with a ditch on either side. If you plant along the top of the ridge, the extra drainage you have created will often make it possible to grow this very forgiving plant even in a wet location.

How Many Thuja Green Giant for a Hedge?

So now, having made the right choice, the first question is, “How many plants do I need?” Answering this question is easy – just follow these steps:

  • Measure the Distance – first you need to measure the area you want to run the hedge along. Do this carefully with a tape, as you want to get it right.
  • Decide the Spacing – don’t make the mistake of planting too close. Plan to space at 3 feet apart for a quick-filling hedge, or up to 5 feet if you have a little more patience, or want to save on the number of plants.
  • Double or Single Row? – if you have room, and want a really dense hedge or screen, then a staggered double row is the right choice. It doesn’t take many extra plants, as they are spaced more widely in the rows. For the equivalent of a 3-foot single row, space the double rows 2 feet apart and the plants 5 ½ feet apart in the rows. For the equivalent of a 5-foot spacing, plan on putting the rows 3 feet apart, and the plants 8 feet apart.
  • Divide the Distance by the Spacing You Chose – do this division, double that result for a double row, and you have your answer. If it contains a fraction, just go up or down to the nearest number.

What Else Do You Need?

To improve the soil, you will need some organic material. Garden compost or animal manures are best, but well-rotted leaves are good too, and peat moss is fine if that is what you have. You need the length of your hedge as cubic feet or material. That means for a 30-foot hedge you need 30 cubic feet of compost. Some extra never hurts.

You also need some mulching material, such as shredded bark, to cover the soil when you are finished planting your trees. You need the same amount as the amount of organic material needed for digging into the soil. You might also use some fertilizer for evergreens as well, especially if you have sandy soil, but adding organic material is always better than relying on fertilizer alone.

For preparing the soil, a spade is good if you are strong and fit, and the hedge is not too long. Otherwise book a rental on the biggest rototiller they have. A big tiller will make the job easy, and also dig deep, which is important. You can easily do a long strip in a one-day rental.

A length of porous irrigation pipe twice the length of your hedge is an excellent addition too, as it will make watering so much easier. Maybe you need a length of regular hose to connect the porous pipe to the nearest tap as well.

Oh, one final thing. You will need a length of sturdy string to run down the hedge to get all the plants straight, and you will also need that tape you used to measure the length for your hedge and calculate how many plants you needed.

Now You are Ready to Go

It’s time now to order your plants, find out when they should arrive, and mark down a day or two to plant your hedge. You won’t need any stakes – Thuja Green Giant is too tough to need anything like that. Be prepared to water once or twice a week during the first season, and after that you can sit back and watch your hedge grow. Remember to start trimming while the hedge is still young and developing – don’t wait until it reaches the final height you want it to be. This final tip is the secret to the densest and sturdiest hedge you have ever seen.

Thuja Green Giant and Deer

Like most children, when I was young I loved deer. In books and cartoons they are always portrayed as shy and sweet. It was only when I took up gardening that I learned the truth – deer are not the gardener’s friend. They are aggressive in looking for food, and bold enough to venture into gardens, especially early in the morning, or at dusk, when no-one is around, or when they are hidden by the growing shadows.

Finding plants that deer will ignore is a necessity for gardeners in rural areas – unless you invest in a deer-proof fence, deer netting or an electric fence. White-tailed deer can jump almost 8 feet height, so a small fence is not going to cut it, and larger ones start to run expensive if you have a larger property. A fence is never a guarantee of a deer-free garden, so growing plants that deer don’t like is a better way to start.

The second necessity in many gardens is a hedge. Hedges and screens protect your property from wind and drifting snow, and they give you privacy from neighbors. You may get on very well with your neighbors (or you may not!) but you certainly don’t want them monitoring your every move. This means that putting in a hedge is usually a first priority when you move into a new home. A very popular group of plants for hedging are the arborvitae trees, and among these, the stand-out variety for rapid growth is ‘Green Giant’. This hybrid tree is far and away the most popular hedging choice when speed, height and density are your priorities. So how does this plant stand up against deer?

Bambi meets the Green Giant

This might sound more like the latest movie at the drive-in (I know, I know, there are sadly almost none left anymore) but this is exactly the situation – what happens when that cute little animal meets the big tough tree? The answer to that million-dollar question seems to be – not very much. Although with deer nothing is iron-clad, it seems that arborvitae in general, and ‘Green Giant’ in particular, are not on the tasting menu for deer at all.

Practical experience, supported by an internet search, shows that there is general agreement to put Thuja Green Giant firmly on the list of ‘deer-proof’ plants. Now immediately someone is going to say, “But deer ate my arborvitae!” and I am going to ask them, “What kind do you have?” You see, to you and I, all arborvitae may look similar, but not to a deer. The eastern arborvitae, also called white cedar or Thuja occidentalis, is (sadly) a favorite of deer, and so plants like ‘Emerald Green’ do need protection. On the other hand, western redcedar, Thuja plicata, is not attractive to deer at all. That plant is one of the parents of ‘Green Giant’, so whatever it is in western redcedar that deer don’t like, its offspring has it too.

What kind of deer is That?

Like the arborvitae, not all deer are the same either. There are two basic species in North America, with several local subspecies. The most common is the whitetail deer, Odocoileus virginianus, which lives mostly in the eastern states, but is also found to some degree in every other state except for California, Nevada, and Utah. As their name suggests, whitetail deer are easy to identify, at least when they lift their tail to make their famous ‘white flag’ gesture. The top of the tail is brown with a dark stripe down it, but the underside is pure white, and lifting the tail also reveals a white rump patch. Whitetail deer are able – and usually willing – to live near humans, so they are also the ones most often seen by us. With perhaps 14 million of them around, they can be hard to miss. In winter they gather together in groups – ‘yard up’ – on some part of their range. That is why the two or three you saw all summer suddenly become 50 when the snow starts to fly.

The larger mule deer, Odocoileus hemionus, is mostly found in western states, where it has a couple of subspecies, the Sitka deer in Alaska and the Columbia blacktail along the Pacific coast. They can also be found as far east as Texas. Mule deer spend summer in the mountains, but migrate down into valleys for the winter, when they are more likely to be seen – and come into gardens. They are easily identified by their large ears, like those of a mule, and that of course is why they got their name.

And the Winner Is. . .

So, when we read of plants eaten by deer, we also need to take into account the location – since each species has different feeding preferences – and the time of year. In a severe winter, with thick snow and limited food, just like humans in a famine, deer will eat plants that they otherwise would pass right by. With animals, nothing is guaranteed, but when it comes to putting in plants that deer will usually leave alone, Thuja Green Giant is still the number one choice both among arborvitae, and among just about any other hedging plant. When it comes to giving you the best chance of making a hedge that deer will leave alone, the Green Giant wins every time.

Finally, although a full-scale deer fence may be prohibitive, once you have a nice, dense Green Giant hedge around your property – and that won’t be very long at all – then putting a shorter, cheaper fence tight along the backside of it will keep deer from pushing through. Inside your garden is now going to become truly deer-proof. This leaves you free to grow whatever you want, without having to check it is not on the ‘preferred diet’ list of your local deer – whatever species they happen to be.

5 Steps to the Best Thuja Green Giant Hedge

Thuja Green Giant is the world’s most popular hedging plant – and no wonder. The fastest growing evergreen conifer is also hardy, resistant to heat and cold, and even grows well in coastal areas, where salt-spray can be so damaging to other kinds of hedges. But even the best plant in the world can use a little help to give you its very best, so here are five tips on how to make that happen for you – in your own garden.

5 steps to the Best Thuja Hedge

  1. Prepare the soil well – dig in plenty of organic material and a starter fertilizer
  2. Space plants correctly – for a shorter hedge use a 3-foot spacing. For a taller one go with 5 feet.
  3. Water regularly when young – to get that top growth-rate, water at least once a week
  4. Have a fertilizer program – modern slow-release fertilizers give the best results
  5. Trim your hedge to the ideal shape – start when young, slope the sides inwards slightly, and round the top

Prepare the Soil Well

Dig over the area where your hedge is going to be to a width of at least 3 feet. If it’s a long hedge, using a roto-tiller will save a lot of work, but rent a big one that digs down at least 8 inches, and ideally deeper. Go over the area several times, working the tiller deeper each time. You don’t need to take up the grass – just till it right in. Cover the whole area with some rich organic material to a depth of at least 3 inches after you have tilled once, then till it in again. You can use anything – garden compost, rotted leaves, animal manures, or peat moss – but adding that material will stimulate good root growth and quick development in your newly-planted Green Giants. This is especially important if you have sandy or clay soil – both types are improved by adding organic material. Adding some starter-fertilizer rich in phosphates – that second number in the fertilizer formula (e.g.10-30-5) – will also make a big difference. Dig it into the soil along with the organic material you use.

Space Plants Correctly

Resist the temptation to pack your plants tightly together. They will push up tall, but not develop well lower down. You will end up with a hedge that is thin near the ground. Correct spacing will allow the plants to thicken low down, and give you a dense, solid barrier. 3 to 5 feet apart is ideal for a hedge, with the wider spacing for a hedge over 6 feet tall. If you want an untrimmed screen or barrier, then 6 to 8 feet apart will work well. For an extra dense hedge, use a staggered double row, with the rows 2 or 3 feet apart and the plants 8 feet apart.

Water Regularly When Young

The first two growing seasons are vital to get your plants off to a flying start. Until the roots move out from the root-balls into the surrounding soil, they can dry out even during cool and showery weather. If you can, run a trickle-hose between the plants when you put them in. Now you can connect that to a garden hose and water regularly with ease. If you planted during warm weather, then a thorough soak twice a week is not too much. Otherwise a deep soaking once a week is far better than a quick sprinkle every day or two. Once your trees are established, a tough plant like Thuja Green Giant only need watering during extended dry periods.

Have a Fertilizer Program

Even if you have rich soil, fertilizing your hedge will improve its growth. Whatever method you use, choose a good-quality fertilizer blended for evergreen trees and hedges. These contain high levels of the nitrogen needed for rich-green, plentiful and dense growth. Nitrogen comes first in the fertilizer number (20-10-10). Young plants benefit from regular feeding with a water-soluble fertilizer. After the first year, switch to a granular formulation – it’s much less time-consuming to apply. This should be put down as per the directions, in early spring, shortly before the new growth starts. Make sure you spread the recommended amount evenly over the root-zone, which extends a couple of feet or more outside the hedge. Since these fertilizers still need two or three applications a year for top growth-rates, you might want instead to use a slow-release formulation. These are more expensive, but one application lasts the whole season.

Trim Your Hedge to the Ideal Shape

It is very important to start trimming soon after you plant your Thuja Green Giant. Don’t wait until they reach the final height you had in mind. Regular light trimming from the beginning – just an inch or two each time – will encourage dense branching and a strong hedge. You want to have lots of branches growing outwards to make thick sides, and early trimming will develop those.

Beginners at hedge trimming usually try to remove the same amount all over. Since the top grows faster than the bottom, doing this will give you a hedge that is wide at the top and thinner at the bottom. Instead, trim the top more, so that the sides slope inwards a little. This will let light reach right down to the bottom leaves, and keep them growing well. Your hedge will be thick right to the ground, just the way you want it to be. For a formal look, keep the sides perfectly flat, while sloping inwards slightly. In cold areas trim from spring to early fall only – you don’t want to stimulate new growth that could be damaged by a late frost, or turn brown in winter. If you get a lot of snow in winter, then trimming the top rounded – rather than square – will help shed the snow from the top before its weight splits your hedge. Finally, never wait until you must cut back into branches with no leaves on them. These will never re-sprout and your hedge will be ruined.


If you follow these simple guidelines, you will have the fastest-growing, sturdiest and healthiest hedge around. A little bit of care goes a long way with Thuja Green Giant.