Golden foliage is always a big visual lift in the garden, and the longer through the seasons it lasts, the better. Often golden foliage can brown in winter, and some of the evergreens with good golden winter color fail in colder zones. But don’t worry, because now we have the Highlights™ Arborvitae, a very cold-hardy form that stays richly gold, without burning, even in zone 4, and probably even lower. This outstanding plant brings golden foliage to gardens that previously looked at golden cypress in warmer gardens and thought, “If only. . .” Well now you can.
The Highlights Arborvitae forms a narrow, upright plant, that will be at least 8 feet tall and 3 or 4 feet wide within ten years of planting. Ultimately plants will reach about 20 feet tall, and be 4 or 5 feet wide, with a narrow, conical form. With trimming it can be kept narrower and shorter, so it is easy to fit this top-class plant into smaller gardens, and to grow it in containers for many years, as a striking specimen. The evergreen foliage is carried in upright, tight sprays, creating a naturally-dense column. All year round the leaves are bright golden-yellow, with no fading at all, and no bronzing in winter either. This ravishing plant brings you the beautiful golden look that was previously out of reach in colder zones, and in warmer ones it is an excellent, low-maintenance way of producing golden accents that won’t grow too large or need regular trimming.
Plant the Highlights Arborvitae as a striking specimen among other shrubs – that golden color really stands out right across the garden. Plant one, or a group of three, on a lawn for a vertical accent that is hard to beat. Create a beautiful golden hedge to bring all-year color to a drab area, and to provide essential privacy screening too. For a solid hedge, space plants 2½ to 3 feet apart. For containers and boxes this plant is truly outstanding, giving height and color without width, on a terrace, patio or balcony.
Growing Highlights Arborvitae Trees
The Highlights Arborvitae is hardy all the way from zone 4 to zone 8. It grows well in all but the hottest zones, and it’s the top choice for colder areas. We really don’t know for sure yet, since this is a newer plant, exactly how cold hardy it is, but since its parent is the well-known Emerald Green Arborvitae, which is hardy even in zone 2, there is every reason to believe that this plant will be too. It is possible that in zones 2 and 3 some winter burn could occur, because gold foliage is more sensitive, but if there is some wind protection it should work well. Go ahead and try it – our bet is it will be just fine. When planted in a container it will not be as hardy, since the roots are not as cold-resistant as the top growth.
When it comes to soil, the Highlights Arborvitae is very easy to please. It will grow well in almost all garden soils, and that includes damp to wet areas too. Acidic or alkaline (including chalky soils), sand or clay, it really doesn’t matter. Only dry and very sandy soil could be a problem, and even that can often be overcome with plenty of organic material and a steady water supply in summer. In the hottest zones some afternoon shade is desirable, but otherwise this plant grows best in full sun. The more sun, the denser and more compact the foliage will be, and the stronger the golden coloring. This plant is almost never bothered by pests or diseases. If you do want to trim it, do this in early spring and again in late summer to early fall. That way you will always have the best foliage color for the longest time.
History and Origins of Highlights Arborvitae Trees
The Highlights Arborvitae is a unique form of the eastern arborvitae, Thuja occidentalis. This tree is also known as white cedar or American arborvitae. All through south-eastern Canada and the north-eastern states of America you can find it growing, often at the edges of forests and in wetlands. These wild trees are long-lived, but usually only grow to between 40 and perhaps 60 feet tall. It was the first North American tree to be grown in Europe, and it has always been a favorite there, especially in northern countries. In 1950 a Danish nursery called D. T. Poulsen found a different seedling of this tree growing – more compact, and green all winter. They called it ‘Smaragd’, which is Danish for ‘emerald’, and we know it as the Emerald Green Arborvitae. In 1999 Edward Kubik, who has a nursery in Janowice, Poland, spotted an unusual golden seedling growing among a crop of ‘Smaragd’, and he took it aside. Once he had grown it for a while, he realized just how outstanding his discovery was, and he called it ‘Janed Gold’. In 2011 he was granted an American patent, and the plant was released by Monrovia Nurseries, of California, under the trademark name of Highlights™ Arborvitae. Our plants are produced under license, and this outstanding plant is proving very popular, in both cold and warm areas. It really is one of the very best cold-hardy golden evergreens, and our stock will not last long. Order now.