When you consider that Thuja Green Giant is such a fantastic evergreen, so fast growing and vigorous, it is hard to think it could be improved on – but it has been. Yes, now we have the fabulous new Virginian™ Arborvitae, a splendid plant that overcomes the most common problem we hear with Thuja Green Giant – its large size. The Virginian Arborvitae is a compact plant, reaching just 14 feet in height, with a spread of 6 feet, after ten years. Yet it grows fast, like Thuja Green Giant, and it is as dense, or even denser – wow, who could have thought it was possible.
The Virginian Arborvitae is an upright evergreen bush, with foliage reaching right to the ground. It is fast-growing, adding as much as 3 feet a year for several years following the year it is planted, and growing vigorously in a wide range of conditions. Within 10 years it should be about 14 feet tall, and only 6 feet wide, and by then the growth rate will have slowed down. Like all conifers it will continue to grow indefinitely, but at a slower rate, and we don’t know exactly how tall it may eventually become. None the less, it is certain to be smaller than Thuja Green Giant at the same age – after all, even under very average conditions that tree can be 15 feet tall in 6 or 7 years, from a 4 or 5-foot plant young plant.
There are other great things about the Virginian Arborvitae too, especially if you want to grow it as an untrimmed screen or specimen. The smallest branches are more spreading than on Thuja Green Giant, more delicate, and slightly pendulous. This creates a much more feathery look. This makes it a lot more attractive as a specimen than Thuja Green Giant, which has more upright, stiffer branches that can look thin and open when they are young. So, if looks are important to you – and they probably are – then the Virginian Arborvitae is a more attractive plant, while still very similar to Thuja Green Giant.
Growing Virginian Arborvitae Trees
Use the Virginian Arborvitae as a specimen tree on a lawn, either alone, or planted in an attractive cluster of 3 or 5 plants, spaced slightly irregularly. Planted in a row 3 or 4 feet apart it will soon become a handsome screen for a smaller garden. It trims easily, and you can make a gorgeous, rich-green hedge from it in just a few years. Plant it around your home to fill the angles between walls, the spaces between windows, or as a pair to frame your front door. Wherever you might have chosen Thuja Green Giant, but decide, “No” because it would grow too large, then choose this tree instead – it’s perfect.
You don’t need to worry that the Virginian Arborvitae is more tender, or harder to grow than its parent – it isn’t. It grows well from zone 5 all the way to zone 9 – in other words, across all but the coldest north-eastern and central regions. It grows best in full sun, but it will tolerate a little shade for a few hours of the day, if it must. It really does grow in just about any soil, from sandy soils to clays, just as long as they are well-drained. If you need similar plants for wet conditions, consider the Emerald Green Arborvitae, a plant that is well-adapted to moist soil.
Pests and diseases don’t bother the Virginian Arborvitae, and deer usually leave it alone too, which is unusual, as they will eat most other kinds of arborvitae. It is easy to trim, and you can do it at any time from early spring to early fall in cooler zones, and, in zones 8 and 9, pretty much at any time of year. If you don’t trim, this wonderful compact plant will still be upright, dense, bushy and beautiful. For a hedge, remember to trim the top narrower than the bottom, so that the sides slope inwards a little, allowing light to the bottom, and keeping it vigorous and healthy.
History and Origins of Virginian Arborvitae Trees
The Virginian Arborvitae is a natural mutation of Thuja Green Giant. That plant in turn is a hybrid between two species of arborvitae, Western Redcedar (Thuja plicata), a tree for California, and Japanese Thuja (Thuja standishii). This chance cross-pollination happened at the Poulsen nursery in Denmark, in the 1930s. Nothing much happened with it until a small plant was sent to the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C. in 1967. It grew so fast, and so beautifully, that it became a big hit, and today it is grown in large quantities at many nurseries.
In 2004, Plantation Spring Nursery, Suffolk, Virginia, planted a batch of young plants of Thuja Green Giant, to grow into larger specimens. In 2007 Benjamin Frank Case, Jr., was working with these plants when he spotted something different. One plant was smaller, densely clothed in branches right to the ground, and with the feathery young stems already described. He realized it was a chance mutation, and he took the plant aside, propagated and tested it. In 2012, when he was satisfied it would keep its unique character, he named it ‘BFC68’. He was granted a patent on it in 2016, and here at the Tree Center we are proud to be among the first nurseries offering this plant. The reviews from happy growers are remarkable, and this plant is being snapped up by eager gardeners looking for a smaller, denser and more delicate version of Thuja Green Giant. Order now, while we still have stock – you won’t be disappointed.