While Thuja Green Giant is widely grown for hedges and screening, and justifiably so, given its rapid growth-rate and dense, upright structure, the use of this plant in gardens shouldn’t stop there. Fast-growing evergreens have a wealth of uses, so it’s time to take a closer look at what can be done with this versatile plant to solve a variety of garden design issues. Let’s get started.
Thuja Green Giant as Specimen Trees
There is something majestic and calming about a column of evergreen foliage. There is a range of plants that do this, but for many of them the wait is long until they become effective. Not with Thuja Green Giant. With proven growth of 3 feet a year in younger plants, it won’t be long at all until you have a bold green column making a statement in your garden. These fingers of green are ideal for adding a touch of geometry to your garden. Plant a pair on either side of your driveway, for example, or to flank a gate. Run an avenue beside a long driveway and bring a majestic feel to coming home. If you have a portico entrance, or large front doors, then it will look even more impressive framed by green columns on either side. Mark the corners of your patio with an upright exclamation point of green and add calming balance to your garden.
These upright features are important in any garden, formal or informal, because they create a sense of structure. It is easy to plant a lot of trees and shrubs on your property, but you don’t want them to become just a forest. Thoughtfully-placed accents show that this is a garden, not just a collection of plants. If you have a large lawn, you might have planted several trees on it. The natural tendency is to use shade or flowering trees, and that is the way to go, but adding some upright evergreens creates a fully picture, and makes the trees look even more impressive.
Another valuable place to put one or more specimens of Thuja Green Giant is in the corners of your property. These can be difficult spots to landscape well, but evergreens will create a more enclosed look that enhances the ‘garden’ feel. In small to medium-sized gardens, one will probably be enough in a corner, given that they will soon be 12 feet wide. But in larger gardens a group will most likely be needed.
Spacing Groups of Thuja Green Giant
The rule for grouping plants is simple, and is taken from Asian gardens, where even numbers other than two are considered unlucky, and everything is done in odd numbers. It might be more a case of ‘look’ than ‘luck’, but anyway, this rule is a good one. If you plant a group of more than one, even two is rarely right, but three just looks so much better. For larger areas – and Thuja Green Giant can quickly fill even a large dead spot, go to five or even seven plants.
The spacing between plants is critical to making groups work properly. The most common mistake is putting them too close. It just seems impossible that these compact little guys could even get so big they merge into a formless mass. They do – very quickly. While we exploit this for a hedge or screen, with groups of specimens we want an outcome that respects each plants individuality. You can reckon that in most gardens Thuja Green Giant will reach a spread of 12 feet. So plants spaced that far apart will take maybe twenty years to touch. When we stand back and look at a group of plants we see the upper part, and to create a group there has to be some unification. This means that 12-foot centers are going to be too far apart, at least for a very long time. 8 to 10 feet is usually the ideal spacing for this plant when forming a cluster. If you make groupings of more than three plants, plant one or two a little further apart – so in a group of five, three might be on 8-foot centers, and the remaining two on 10-foot. This might sound trifling, but it is on this attention to detail that distinctive gardens are created. If the plants begin to merge lower down, but remain as separate fingers up above, that is the ideal outcome. The goal is to look ‘natural’, so strict geometry is out – unless you are doing the Italian Renaissance in your garden.
For that avenue mentioned earlier, the spacing needs to be more, so that each tree stays as a distinct individual. 20-foot centers would be a minimum, which means six pairs along a 100-foot driveway. “Wait – that can’t be right!” did you just say? Yes, it is – you need a pair at each end, and four pairs to divide the 100 feet evenly into twenty-foot intervals. Draw a diagram if you don’t believe it.
Thuja Green Giant in Tubs
Although usually planted directly in the ground, Thuja Green Giant is in fact a plant that is perfect to fill big tubs with low-maintenance green. Not only do they grow fast, but they stay naturally tight, although there is nothing wrong with clipping to get a more formal, conical shape from your plants.
Since this is a large plant, bigger containers are needed. Half-barrels, or 24-inch planters, are the right size for trees that are going to be in those planters for a long time. Make sure they have large drainage holes, and try to source potting soil for outdoor planters, not houseplants. These soils contain composted bark or other coarser materials that don’t break down quickly, so the soil is more resistant to rain, and continues to drain well. A spring application of a slow-release fertilizer for evergreens is all it takes to keep your trees growing well. Thuja Green Giant is relatively drought resistant, so established plants in pots take a while to suffer if you don’t water, but it is best not to let that happen. Once the top few inches are dry, give them a deep soak until water flows from the drainage holes. Then leave them to become dryer again before re-watering. This is necessary to prevent root diseases.
These tubs can be placed on a terrace, around a pool, in the corners of a parking area, or just about anywhere you have paved surfaces. The benefit of evergreens is that they don’t start dropping leaves each fall, or flower petals either, so maintenance of the area is not impacted significantly.
However you use Thuja Green Giant around your garden, you will be amazed at the versatility and adaptability of this plant, and how easily it brings structure and form to any garden. Hedges are not the end of the uses for this plant – they are just the beginning.