One of the most useful features in a garden, guaranteed to add a touch of grace and formality, is the narrow, upright green column. Many trees grow in this way, usually selections of wild trees with broader habits, but for smaller gardens and in containers, and especially for cold areas, nothing beats the classic Holmstrup Arborvitae.
There are many uses for a slender green column in the garden. As a single specimen on a small lawn, it will add interest without taking up a lot of room. Planted in clusters of 3 or 5 on a larger lawn they make very attractive features all year round. In beds too – alone or in groups – they give interest and create those important visual ‘exclamation marks’ that stop the eye and make you take in the garden scene more leisurely, seeing more to admire. You can make a boring pathway interesting without adding work, by planting an avenue of these green columns along it. How close you plant them will affect the result. Close together, so that they almost touch, and you have a screen. Further apart and you create the effect of a grand entrance. When working with square or rectangular patios and terraces, placing one at each corner adds a nice formal touch – for a larger area one or two along the sides look good too. Then, around your home, they can fill corners where walls change direction, or planted in pairs they frame a window or a door. Finally, grown in a large tub or pot they are perfect on a terrace or balcony to bring a sense of height and serenity, and that all-important calming green.
The question then becomes, what plant should I use for this? If you need something smaller, for a pot, or to grow in a smaller garden space, the Holmstrup Arborvitae is the perfect choice. It grows no more than 8 or 9 feet tall in the first ten years, and it will be less than 3 feet wide by then. It doesn’t need trimming either, as it has a naturally dense form, although if you want a very tight, precise column, it can be easily trimmed. This tree looks a lot like a miniature version of the Emerald Green Arborvitae, which can grow too tall and large for smaller gardens, or for using in pots. If you live in zones 3 and 4, your choices can be limited, but don’t worry, the Holmstrup Arborvitae is resistant to very cold winters, and it doesn’t burn or brown, but instead stays fresh and green all winter. It is a true winner.
Growing Holmstrup Arborvitae Trees
The Holmstrup Arborvitae has tight fans of green foliage, growing right to the ground. It has a slender form, and over time, if untrimmed, it will become slightly conical, but still narrow. The fans of foliage, with their tiny leaves clinging flat to the stems, making the whole stem look lush and green. In this variety they are held in a vertical position around the central trunk, giving this plant a characteristic look, with subtle vertical striations of darker and lighter green. It has outstanding leaf color, always looking fresh and green in every month of the year. It rarely shows the small, brown cones that arborvitae can have, so the green is always pure and unblemished.
The Holmstrup Arborvitae grows well, and stays richly green without burning, even in zone 3, with winter lows of minus 40 degrees. It thrives in warmer zones too, up to zone 8, but very hot and humid conditions can limit its growth. It grows best in full sun, but can also be grown easily in partial shade, and in hotter zones, some afternoon shade can be beneficial to preserve the rich green color. It grows in any ordinary garden soil, and unlike many other evergreens, it will also grow well in wetter soils, and not so well in very dry, sandy soils, where there are other, better choices among the junipers. It normally has no significant pests or diseases, but it can be eaten by hungry deer in winter. It doesn’t need trimming to stay neat and compact, but for a very formal look, it can easily be trimmed. Early spring, before the new growth, and again in late summer, are the best times for trimming. In colder areas, don’t trim after early fall, to protect it from winter damage.
Growing Holmstrup Arborvitae Trees
The Holmstrup Arborvitae is a special selection of the eastern arborvitae, Thuja occidentalis, also called the American arborvitae. This small tree can grow to perhaps 60 feet, although wild trees are often shorter. It grows all through south-eastern Canada and the north-eastern states of America, often at the edges of forests and in wetlands. In the late 1940s a nurseryman called Asger M. Jensen, who lived in Homstrup, Denmark, found an unusual seedling growing in a row of these trees, which are often grown for hedges in colder regions. This seedling was smaller, with very tight foliage. He grew it for a while, and then in 1951 it was first sold to the public. It has been widely sold in North America since the middle of the 1960s. This tree has stood the test of time and it is always a top choice. We have some beautiful young plants, but they always sell out fast, so order now, while our stocks last.