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When starting a new garden, or improving an older one, one of the first things to think about is screening. There are many reasons why a barrier of plants should be perhaps the first thing you establish in your garden, and all of them are important. You may need privacy – no one likes to be using their garden under the watchful eye of neighbors or passers-by. Unless you live out in the country, chances are someone can see your home and right into your garden. You may be near a busy road or highway, and traffic noise combined with dust and headlights at night, can be unpleasant both outside and inside your home. You may also have a larger garden, and dividing it up into separate areas – for vegetables, fruit trees, a children’s play-area, or a sheltered retreat – is always a good way to start building the garden you will love.
Of course, you could always put in a fence, but using plants is a much better option. Fences have a limited life, and begin to rot or rust almost as soon as they go up. Per foot, plants are much cheaper, and much easier to install. While you can’t build a fence 20 feet tall, you can certainly put in a living screen of plants that will grow that tall, or even more. Finally, plants reduce noise, wind, dust and snowdrift much more effectively than a fence ever can. If you compare a beautiful screen in vibrant green with even the nicest fence, it really is no contest.
The only limitation when using plants as screens is the growth rate. Some hedging plants take years to develop, but this is where the amazing Green Giant enters the picture. This plant will grow up to 3 feet a year, so in the space of just a few years, it can be 10 to 20 feet tall and your problem is solved almost instantly. Don’t worry about pests, diseases, soil conditions or even deer – The Green Giant takes them all in its stride and delivers the perfect hedge every time. No wonder this is the most popular and widely planted choice for a hedge or barrier, right across the country.
Green Giant Arborvitae is one of the fastest growing plants you can find. Not only is it fast, the growth is dense – not some spindly stem shooting up with no width to it. Initial growth rates can be 3 feet in a single year, and growth is steady and fast. In trials at the University of Arkansas, it was the fastest evergreen they found, and tiny plants were 10 feet tall and 5 feet wide in just 7 years. These plants were single specimens – if planted closer in a hedge the plants compete and push up taller, while staying narrower. Many other people report even faster growth, especially with a full fertilizer program, which we will describe later.
One of the fantastic things about Green Giant Arborvitae is its resistance to deer. Most other soft evergreens – and many other plants too – are loved by deer, especially during the winter. If you live in an area with deer, this can be a real problem, and limit your ability to grow many beautiful plants. With Green Giants you do not need to worry.
This tree is widely known to be unattractive to deer and they will leave it alone. Only in very severe winters, and if you have many deer, can you have problems, and if you are concerned, just spray your plants with deer repellent in the fall. Even better, if you plant a double row of trees as described below, as the plants mature they will become so dense they will create a virtually deer-resistant barrier that will protect the rest of your garden, and allow you to grow a wide variety of beautiful plants.
Your Green Giant trees will grow in all parts of your garden, from full sun to 50% shade. They will even tolerate a little more shade, although growth will be thinner and slower. So even if your hedge passes from sun to shade, you will have a beautiful even appearance the whole length, without thin, straggly areas.
Soil is never a problem for this vigorous tree, which will grow in almost any kind of soil, from sand to clay and everything in between. It will grow well even in soil that is regularly wet, but not in soil that is permanently flooded.
Thuja Green Giant is hardy to minus 20 degrees, so it is happy planted in zone 5 and in all the warmer zones. If you live in a colder area, we recommend the Emerald Green Arborvitae, which is hardyer all the way to minus 40 degrees, so it will even grow in zone 3. Even if you live in the hottest areas, Green Giant Arborvitae will still grow well, if the conditions are not too dry and you provide some water.
Making the Perfect Hedge or Barrier with Thujas
Because it is a strong, vigorous and fast-growing plant, Thujas can be planted at many different spacings and still succeed. Planted close together it will of course very quickly make a dense hedge, and the plants will grow taller and narrower. Planted further apart the plants will be broader, and although it takes a little longer, they will fill in after some time, depending on exactly how far apart they are. Plants put close together will naturally grow more like a hedge, those further apart will be more conical in shape, growing together lower down and closer to the ground first, before filling in higher up.
If you are planting against a fence, or along your property line, set the row at least 3 feet from the fence or line. Remember that neighbors or your city can trim trees up to the property line, so you want to have plenty of the plant on your side, so that it is protected from damage.
Single Row Of Green Giants
Double Row Of Green Giants
Thuja Green Giants as an Informal Barrier
To create a windbreak or natural barrier, space your plants 5 to 10 feet apart. You can place them in a single row, but if you have a large space, you can also plant in a double row, staggering the rows by placing each plant in the space between the plants in the other row. In double rows, set the rows 5 feet apart, with the trees 8 to 12 feet apart.
Thuja Green Giants as a Hedge
Arborvitaes are a very popular hedge plant, because they are beautiful every day of the year, and fast growing too. You won’t have to wait long before you have a beautiful hedge you will be truly proud of.
For the perfect hedge, you can plant your trees as a single row, spacing them between 3 and 5 feet apart. For an even denser hedge, that will give you fantastic screening in just a few years, plant a double row, with the rows 3 feet apart and the plants 5 to 8 feet apart in each row. Stagger the plants so that each plant in one row sits in the space between the plants in the other row. This method takes a few more plants to create a hedge, but the result will be a solid, dense hedge that you will love.
Whether you use a single or a double row, the narrower spacing is better for a shorter hedge, up to 8 feet tall, and use the wider spacing for a taller hedge.
How and When to Plant Thuja Green Giants
Our plants will arrive well established in pots, and you can plant them at any time of the year, as long as the soil is not frozen. Spring planting will give you good establishment, since the plants will have a full growing season ahead of them to spread their roots and grow under ideal conditions. Obviously if you plant in fall or winter, you will not see much growth until the following spring, but the roots will have been growing below ground, so your plants will get off to a flying start as soon as the first warm days of spring arrive.
To get the best results from your planting, put some time into preparing the site. Dig or till the soil to a depth of 8 to 12 inches. When planting a hedge, prepare a strip of ground at least 2 feet wide, and preferably 3 feet wide. For a specimen, prepare a circular area 2 to 3 feet across. Bury soft green weeds as you dig, but remove the roots of weeds, especially big perennial ones.
It is not necessary to remove stones, although any bigger than your fist can be. Stones help drainage and keep the soil cool, so just leave them. Add some organic material to the soil as you prepare it. This can be anything from garden compost to rotted leaves, animal manure, or peat moss. Add a slow-release starter fertilizer for evergreen trees as well, to get your plants off to a strong start. We recommend our DIEHARD Transplant Fertilizer as the ideal soil additive for the quickest establishment of a healthy root system.
Now that your area is ready, set out the trees at the spacing you are using, and begin to plant. For a hedge, you can plant your Green Giants individually, or dig a trench the whole distance and set the plants along it. The trench method has the advantage of making it easier to adjust the spacing so that everything is even and straight. Use a tightly stretched string to keep your trench straight, and to keep all the plants in line for a perfect planting job.
Remove enough soil from the hole or trench so that the plants sit just an inch or so below the final level of the ground. Laying a stick across the hole is a good way to check this. Make sure the soil underneath is firm, so that your plant will not be pushed deeper as you plant.
Once you have the plants in the hole or trench, and standing nicely upright, put back about two-thirds of the soil, pushing it down around the root ball as you go. Once you have done this, add lots of water, until the hole is completely flooded. Wait for the water to drain away and then put back the rest of the soil. If the ground was very dry when you started, you can water again, but it is usually not necessary. Create a low ridge of soil 12 to 18 inches away from the base of the plants, to trap future water and lead it down into the roots, instead of it just running away.
Caring for Green Giant Arborvitae
If the weather is warm and dry, water your Arborvitae Green Giant twice a week for the first month after planting and then once a week until late fall. If the weather is cooler, you can water just once a week right from the start. For the first few years you will get maximum growth by watering regularly, especially during warm or dry weather. For a hedge, putting a drip line or trickle hose in place will make this easy to do, and give you the best growth.
Mulch is a great way to conserve moisture, keep the soil cool and prevent the soil from being compacted by heavy rain. The best mulching materials are organic, rather than gravel, but if gravel is part of the design of your garden, then it is OK to use it. Shredded bark is one of the best mulches to use, because it will eventually degrade into the soil.
Don’t dig it in – just spread a layer 2 to 3 inches thick over the area around your trees, but not right up against the stem. Cover a wide area, as the roots will spread out into the cooler, damper soil that way. After a couple of years or more, the mulch will have become thin, so add a fresh layer right on top of the old material.
You can also use organic materials like compost or manure as mulch. Again, keep this clear of the stem and cover a good area around the plants. These mulches will need replacing more often, but they give nutrients to the plants, so they act as fertilizer as well as mulch.
If you have prepared the soil well before planting, with organic material and starter fertilizer, you really do not need to do anything more for your Green Giant trees. However, if you want maximum growth, and the healthiest green foliage, using fertilizer regularly is the way to go. Especially if you clip your plants regularly, you need to replace the nutrients removed by clipping, if you want to continue seeing vigorous growth from your trees.
Evergreen trees like Arborvitae Green Giants need plenty of nitrogen for fast growth and healthy green foliage. So you should select a fertilizer specially formulated for evergreen trees and hedges, which has the right balance of nutrients for the best growth possible. Three types of fertilizers are used:
Granular fertilizers are spread over the soil around the trees in early spring, early summer and early fall. Follow the directions for the quantities needed, as the concentration of the fertilizer can vary. In colder areas you can use a special fall fertilizer for that last application, which will toughen up your plants for the coming winter.
These are more expensive, but they only need to be applied once a year – in spring. They are designed to release plant food slowly as the seasons pass, so your plants will always have the right amount available at all times. Some of these come as special granules, and other are in spikes that you drive into the soil around the roots. Again, follow the directions for the particular product you buy.
Water-soluble fertilizers are great for the early life of your plants, as they put the nutrients right down into the root system where it can get to work immediately. However, they need to be applied every two weeks to a month, because they only give a small amount of food each time you apply them. They can be quick and easy for one or a few plants, but for a big hedge it can take a while, unless you use a hose applicator, which speeds up the job a lot.
Pruning and Trimming
If you want a beautiful specimen evergreen to fill a corner of your garden, or stand out among shrubs and other trees, you never need to trim or clip your tree. This makes it a great choice for low maintenance gardening. If you do want it to be very dense and neat, a light clip with shears at any time between spring and early fall will encourage denser growth. For a narrower plant, make sure only one shoot stands above all the others at the very top, to keep a single trunk for as long as possible on your tree.
For hedges, you want to have very dense, tight foliage. This is easy to achieve with a light trim once or twice a year. Don’t make the mistake of waiting until your plants are big before trimming. Start trimming your plants as soon as they are established, and they are starting to grow. Remove just an inch or two of growth all over the plants. For the perfect hedge, only trim the front and back, allowing the plants to grow naturally together at the sides.
Regular trimming will develop the densest hedge and give you the best appearance. Always trim the top more than the bottom, so that your hedge has a slight slope inwards. This keeps the lowest parts green and vigorous, so that you have a perfect hedge right to the ground. You can trim your hedge anytime between spring and early fall, although it is best not to do it during hot, dry weather. Don’t let it become overgrown before trimming it, otherwise it can be hard to restore that beautiful flat green surface.
For barriers and windbreaks you don’t need to trim very often. Just let the plants grow – they are naturally dense and will soon grow together. Once your plants are taller you can trim once a year if you wish, or even just every two or three years.
The Story of Thuja Green Giant
A true trans-Pacific meeting, Thuja Green Giant is a cross between Japanese Thuja (Thuja standishi) and Western Redcedar (Thuja plicata), which is a common tree throughout the Pacific Northwest. It combines the best qualities of both trees to make a powerful hybrid, producing vigorous, rapid growth and making a hardy tree that will grow well right across America. It was found originally in the Poulsen nursery in Denmark in the late 1930s, but the Second World War meant it went unnoticed until some young plants were sent to the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C. in 1967.
By the 1990s, visiting nurserymen were excited about this beautiful, fast growing plant and they were given pieces to grow. A nurseryman from Tennessee called Don Shadow suggested the name ‘Green Giant’ and one of the most outstanding introductions to gardening in America was born. Gardeners have planted millions of trees over the last two decades, and they have found this to be the perfect plant for so many uses around the garden.
Expert growers produced our plants for us, from material derived from that one original plant, and we guaranteed they are true to the original type. Because of the high demand, we constantly receive new stock, but supplies can be limited.