Screening trees are vital parts of a good landscape, especially in colder areas, where they provide shelter from the coldest winds and drifting snow. A good shelter makes it possible to grow a much wider range of plants. As well, we often need to screen out things we don’t want in our gardens – highways, noise, being overlooked, and a lack of privacy generally. In cold areas, the choices for screening trees can be limited, but one plant really stands out, the American arbovitae, also known in some areas as white cedar.
This super-hardy evergreen will shrug off temperatures as low as minus 50, so it is a great choice in even the coldest parts of the country. When choosing plants, it always makes sense to choose an improved, selected form, and not just cheap seedling trees. Selected forms give uniform growth from every plant, and they have the ideal features needed to make perfect screens and hedges. The Techny Arborvitae is a selected form of the American arborvitae, which is remarkable for several reasons, all of which suggest choosing it, not cheaper seedlings.
About the Techny Arborvitae
The Techny Arborvitae is noted firstly for its hardiness, showing greater resistance to cold than most other forms of arborvitae. Visually, as part of this hardiness, it does not bronze in winter, as many do, so it remains an attractive green color through the coldest weather – a big visual plus. As well, it has very sturdy branching, and it is naturally wider at the base than normal, so your screen will have a strong, wide base right to the ground, with no thinning. Some arborvitae look untidy for several months of the year, because the older leaves turn yellow over a long period, and hang on the tree. Not the Techny Arborvitae – its older leaves turn yellow in September and quickly drop to the ground as useful mulch – they don’t hang around looking unsightly.
The growth of this tree is also fast – even a small tree will be at 8 feet tall in 5 years, rapidly giving you the screening you need, and building beautiful hedges for you. Because of its broad structure, you can also space these trees more widely than normal. For a single row, space your plants up to 10 feet apart. For a double row, the rows can be as much as 16 feet apart and you can space the plants up to 14 feet apart. If you need a long screen, this wider spacing translates into a big saving, although of course it will take longer to fill in. For a denser screen sooner, space 5 to 6 feet apart in a single row, and 8 feet apart in a double one, with the rows 10 feet apart.
The American arborvitae, or White Cedar (Thuja occidentalis), is a native plant growing across most of North America, in both the USA and Canada. It is typically found in damp locations, but in gardens it will grow well in ordinary garden soil. Once it is established it is perfectly resistant to the normal drought conditions encountered in cooler states. It will grow in almost all garden soils, from sand to clay, but it does benefit from a richer soil, and a good supply of water, especially when young. Trees that are regularly fertilized and watered will grow much faster than trees left to themselves.
Leaves, Bark and Coloring
Like it parent tree, the American arborvitae, the Techny Arborvitae has tiny green leaves that cling to the stems like scales. The smaller branches are arranged in sprays, and the growth is upright and dense. The bark is brown and peels away from the stems, but you will rarely see any bark, as your trees will grow so dense and bushy. Small green cones may be seen in early summer, which develop into clusters of round brown cones about ½ an inch across. Trees that are regularly trimmed rarely develop cones in any significant quantity.
Origins and History
The Techny Arborvitae is a unique plant found growing at the Mission Gardens in the town of Techny, Illinois. Mission Gardens was a nursery run by a group of Brothers last century, and they were responsible for introducing a number of new plants to gardens, from conifers to daylilies. Our plants are grown from plants derived from that original stock, and they are carefully selected to give you the ideal arborvitae for specimens, hedges or screening.
You can trim your plants anytime between late spring and early fall, and to develop the best screens or hedges, do some light trimming while your trees are still young, rather than wait until they are full-sized. This way you will get the densest structure possible, and you will not slow the growth significantly. Just trim an inch or two from the tips of the branches.