Where to find Thuja plicata Atrovirens in Chicago area?

dorotamon(z5-6/IL)July 14, 2014

I am planting a hedgerow of approx. 300 feet in September and I was going to use thuja plicata because my site is part shady and moist. I hear that Atrovirens grows more narrow than the species and the foliage looks less course than thuja GG. Does anyone have an experience with Atrovirens? Is is sensitive to winter burn? Can I leave it unprunned?

Would anyone know where I can purchase locally a larger quantity of 50 or more of 2-3 footers (or larger)? I have been searching for the last 2 months and can't find a local source.

Thank you in advance for any advice!!!

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Yes, it'll be VERY sensitive to winter burn, lethally so, in Chicago winters. Best look for something different!


    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 8:43AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i am sure resin is correct ...

but if you have a project as such ... you have to visit high end nurseries ... talk with the manager ... and have them order in plants for the next planting season ..

many such nurseries have orders delivered in fall ... you might be to late to make such truck delivery by sept ...

if you just have to have a certain plant.. you have to become a bit more willing to pay extra ...

i am due east of you.. just south of ann arbor...

i have never seen this plant offered .... and i consider our zones approximately the same ...

i would not recommend such ...

finally ... on a 300 foot run .. NEVER .. EVER... plant a monoculture ...

you might want to contact your country soil conservation or extension office and ask about planting wind breaks.. which is what a 300 feet line of plants is.. they ought to have plenty of literature on such .. in MI.. they even offer fall plant sales ...

you could also check out the link ... as an example of a tree producer who offers plants.. for a variety of plants.. for various uses ...


Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 12:13PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Thuja plicata 'Atrovirens' is an old one named for being greener than usual but otherwise typical - the more narrow kind is probably another cultivar. In my area it has become clear that the names of the hedging type T. plicata cultivars are quite mixed up. And in general with cultivar names dating back to the 19th century it is not unexpected that multiple different introductions under the same name have been made over the years, with perhaps nobody now offering the same plant that was first presented way back when.

T. plicata and T. occidentalis are the western and eastern adapted versions of the same basic tree, as mentioned T. plicata is not eastern suitable. When I see photos of what are supposed to be comparatively older T. plicata back there they don't necessarily look the part, as though pure T. plicata isn't really what they are.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 12:32PM
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Not plicata, but GG-related: I've soured on any and all notions that this plant is suitable for the northern midwest. My GG's, growing lustily in Z4 for about 4 years, burned to toast in this past winter's cold and wind. Completely (In my opinion
) not worth bothering with anymore-as if they ever were!

Now I know OP is asking about a cultivar of T. plicata, but given that plant's partial parentage of GG, I'd be quite leery, especially when there are suitable cultivars of T. occidentalis available. That one that Dax always touts-Hetz Wintergreen-might suit this purpose well, being both a tad narrower and possessing a nice winter color. I'd look into it.


    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 1:45PM
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Thank you all for your comments. I have a nursery selected already in Oregon which I planned to use to get Atrovirens in case local source is not available.. so thank you very much you may have just saved me thousands of $!!
Resin and wisconsitom - thank you for confirmation about the winter sensitivity - I am very greatful. I like Hetz but this T.occidentalis and I fear it will be devoured by deer I watch from my kitchen window :)).
Ken - thank you for your comments, I spent the winter debating how to avoid the monoculture, I have met with the certified arborist how advised me that only thuja plicata would work in that spot because of the water/shade and DEER problem that is a big issue in my area. I am north of Chicago, so borderline zone 6, by lake front and my yard borders swampy forest.

As a second choice I was thinking about thuja plicata Spring Grove or U.W (supposed to have a greater winter hardiness) and maybe mix in with canadian hemlock? (any particular cultivars would you recomend?).
Any thoughts on these choices?? Thanks again for all your inputs...

Pictures: attached here in my original post from last fall, many of you already avised me and pushed me in the right direction, now I am just refining my choices :)


    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 2:40PM
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No mono culture
But you do want to include green g
got atrovirens from H D couple years back,,,growing fine until
I have standing water back here ,,,Deer come and go as they please,,,pretty much shade,,,,,,5 GG,,,,neg.4 T.plicata

left atro. mid. GG right T. plicata zebrina

    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 8:42PM
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Hi Ron,
Thanks for the photo! Have you seen currently atros at any HD in Chicago area?
is this atro in the middle by the purple bush? this is very nice. I can't see the GG and zebrina, are those in the back? Yes, at times I have standing water too and this really worries me. Why do you think I should include GG? I hear they got burned badly this year, just for diversification? what do you think about the hemlock?

    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 11:41PM
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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

dorotamon: the purple you ask about is a dead 'Atrovirens' and the middle alive plant is a 'Green Giant' and then to the right of it another Thuja plicata cultivar also dead: 'Zebrina'.

I have 33 Green Giant and they don't get touched by deer nor do my 30 Hetz Wintergreen. You have to remember DEER may feast on anything and that all the hoopla of plicata or occidentalis or hybrids is exactly that, it's hoopla. You never know what those critters may choose to eat.

Certainly GG and HW are the quickest and meet your sun and soil requirements. All my GG's look great after last winter here, I'm 60 miles south of Chicago but on the other side of the state.

If you want to pick out your own trees with the best root-systems you will ever find you could drive to Delta, OH to visit Bad Creek Nursery where my friend grows Green Giant from Rootmaker cells. I've never seen roots anything like his. His trees are inexpensive, too, & is a Ma & Pop Nursery.


This post was edited by gardener365 on Wed, Jul 16, 14 at 10:14

    Bookmark   July 16, 2014 at 10:00AM
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Hi doro. One oddity of working with plants which in nature can be found in very wet areas is that the very same plant species, grown somewwhere in a well-drained nursery field, will in fact have difficulty with the high water table. I have no solution to this except perhaps to start small, thereby possibly giving the plant(s) the opportunity to get acclimated to the conditions.

Your being in Z6 could well mean the difference between success and failure with T. plicata. My references to the troubles I've experienced with Green Giant were from my tree farm up in Z4, whereas I actually live in Z5. So there could be reason to think T. plicata might work where you are.

As to deer herbivory, that can be a real puzzle. My Z4 land is covered with native T. occidentalis. The numerous deer there never-and I do mean never-touch them. I can move little baby ones from the woods up into totally exposed locations in the field, and no issues whatsoever. Meanwhile, in my work, we are planting little pockets of small T. occidentalis, and we've found a very simple, inexpensive, and so far effective way to keep the deer out. We pound T-posts into the ground surrounding each bunch, and then simply string orange nylon twine, at roughly 1-foot intervals, around and around. It sounds too easy, and maybe time will tell us that it is, but so far, this cheap and unobtrusive method has worked 100%. This is here in the area I live in-Z5-where, unlike up at my land, the deer behave more typically, usually maruading this plant when they can. Plus, and I might be out on a limb here (ba-dum-bum), but I suspect that deer can and eventually will learn to eat T. plicata, depending on what else is available.


    Bookmark   July 16, 2014 at 10:02AM
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Dax, thanks for the tour,,,,when wer you here,,,,ha
doro,Don't think hemlock is appropriate
GG do fine here ,,,gosh you"re zone 6 !
What we are forgetting are Chamaesyparis thyodies
did I spell that right
can we swear on GW

    Bookmark   July 16, 2014 at 9:51PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

You have to remember DEER may feast on anything and that all the hoopla of plicata or occidentalis or hybrids is exactly that, it's hoopla. You never know what those critters may choose to eat.

Bingo! Your certified arborist that you talk to is full of it.

I have a few T.o...deer have never touched them and for a while they where some of the first plants in my yard.
Hetz Wintergreen is touted as the the most shade tolerant T.o by the way.

If you go T. p you might want to consider 'Green Splendor.
Supposedly just as fast as GG, more columnar and holds it color better in the winter.


Don't you have close to a 100 GGs as a monoculture planting? How are they doing?

    Bookmark   July 16, 2014 at 10:24PM
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I live in Chicago SW suburb zone 5B.
Nurseries I go to are Riches Fox Willow in Woodstock & Hidden Gardens near I55 & rt83

Also you could try online wholesale Stanley & Sons

I have grown a few varieties of Thuja Occidentalis.
Most have done well. Like the very narrow Degroot Spire or the broader, yellow new growth Yellow Ribbon. My site is partial shaded in low area that floods when it rains. However the plants were planted higher above any potential sitting water & standing water is gone in a day.
The photo shows (a not good) view of the Degroots Spires on the left, Yellow Ribbion in the middle and a another option on the right you might consider, a Pice Abies- Hillside UpRight a very dark green very narrow Norway Spruce.
None of these should require any pruning.

This post was edited by LJS8510 on Thu, Jul 17, 14 at 10:29

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 8:51AM
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Dax, thank you for the clarification about plantkiller's picture, I wonder if the fact that atrovirens and zebrina didn't make it could it be because they are much younger plants? I have been reading that the winter burn impacted the younger plants more than the older. Additionally, in one nursery (Johnsons up north of me in WI) they claimed that several plicatas were planted next to each other and some cultivars (GG and excelsia) were leathaly burned and U.W not even impacted! I guess I am still clinging to the idea of planting those plicatas... I have a feeling they would work since my place is shady and wet, but also secluded and not exposed to winds and it feels warmer here... also thanks for the GG source in Delta, OH...I really like the HW and for sure getting them bare root for another area in the yard to plant in the fall..

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 11:27PM
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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

Whatever you do in my opinion is wait until next spring to plant. Have your plants shipped while they are dormant and when the ground is workable. When I see the spring bulbs come up, I know it's a good time to begin planting.

Those two plicata's in plantkillers photo are quite large, actually. They were simply killed from cold weather. I do agree that larger root mass will up the chances of survival 10fold; no question.

I couldn't have any idea if you're the type of person willing to start off with 6-9" rooted, bareroot-cuttings, but I'll provide a link. My Hetz Wintergreen planted in spring '08 are now easily 8' tall from these starter plants. I ordered 100 for 44 dollars and they sent more than 120.

Good luck with those plicata. I know your mind is set.



Here is a link that might be useful: Rens Nursery

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 9:12AM
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Thanks for the HW source... I was going to use them already. I have seen you recommend it in one of your earlier posts :) :). For the main hedgerow area by the chainlink fence I would prefer to get bigger plants, preferrably 4-5 footers, but on other sites I was going to do bareroot. If plicatas do ok, then I additionally have ~400 ft long road which is ours and I would like to use the same plants for that. But for this area I think I would also need bigger plants to avoid upsetting my very nice neighbors who lived here for 37 years and planted honeysuckle. This is even a bigger project because I would have to rip out existing messy overgrown hedge and plant evergreens... uhh. My issue right now is also finding workers to do all these jobs, with work and small kids this is getting pretty overwhelming. I have a couple more questions... would you know a good source for Degroots
Spire? either bareroot or larger plants? I spent the winter deciding and I feel I am back where I started... do you have an opinion why would hemlock not work for mixing with plicata?? I am taking very seriously Ken's advise to break up the monoculture... (although as you mentioned above, it seems that Ken planted just that, I must admit they are beautiful GG I have seen on one of his earlier posts).

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 11:35AM
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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

You can get Degroot's, Hetz Wintergreen, & Canadian hemlock from Evergreen Nursery.

You may also get Hemlock bare-root seedlings from a place I do business with: Flickengers Nursery

Hemlock would grow wonderfully in your conditions assuming good drainage, however, it could be painfully slow and thus not matching much faster growth rates of the Thuja's. Here you see the best specimens and sizes when grown in Michigan:
Lots to think about! Dax
Source: http://www.na.fs.fed.us/pubs/silvics_manual/Volume_1/tsuga/canadensis.htm

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 1:12PM
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Thank you Dax for your quick reply and the great info! yes, I have to re-think it here.. So, I it appears I am stuck with plicatas but they are risky! Would you recommend (besides GG) a plicata cultivar? what do you think about chamaecyparis thyoides? those are ok for H2O but not as less hardy, so they may be risky as well, am I wrong? what about mixing plicatas w/picea abies cupressina?? if an option how would you plant them... as you can see I am really trying to diversify here... :)

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 1:24PM
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thank you all for your comments and sources. I greatly appreciate you sharing your expertise!

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 12:34AM
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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

I wouldn't plant plicata's, but it's your call. They're not geared genetically for humidity or our heat.

Picea abies 'Cupressina' may be grafted on Picea pungens or onto Picea abies. Certainly Picea pungens as the seedling-rootstock will not adapt to moist conditions. And on roots of Picea abies, still, not something I would do, personally. Spruces are not meant for near constant damp soil conditions. I'd nix that al-together.

Another option you should consider and again is sold thru Evergreen Nursery is the species: Chamaecyparis pisifera. It is an ideal tree for your conditions. Adding Tsuga canadensis along with it and other Thuja's will bring varying heights and make a very nice-looking screen. Yesterday I got to thinking later in the day after I had posted that varying heights is actually the right way to fly.

That's where I'm leaning. If you want to invest further into Chamaecyparis thyoides and are able to find seedlings (very unlikely)/cultivars with speedy growth rates, by all means they too fit your criteria.


    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 9:08AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

"Black spruce usually grows on wet organic soils"

Here is a link that might be useful: Black Spruce

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 4:00PM
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Dax, thank you for thinking about it... varying heights may be the way to go since some areas are more shady than others (north side of the house) and others do get part shade and maybe 4-5 hrs of sun. So, naturally plants will grow at different rates anyway.. With the chamaecyparis pisifera, are you thinking about "tapestry hedge" type screen mixed with taller evergreens (thuja, hemlock)? in your opinion are chamaecyparis pisifera hardy enough here? I was looking into chamaecyparis O. like crippsii types earlier but I was not sure about the hardiness in CHI 'e and if shade is ok. So sorry for switching the subject,,, my original design idea (which I abandoned for the darn plicata) was to mix serbians (pendula type) with oriental spruces(aurea, atrovirens or any more fastigiate types) should I resurect it or should it stay dead :) ? ...

bboy- I was thinking about picea mariana earlier (black spruce) and you are exactly right, it likes boggy soil but I abondoned it because I read it grows painfully slowly and I had a hard time finding any cultivars for retail...(maybe aureovariegata or well's spire?) do you have any recommendataions which cultivar and where to find it? maybe I could mix it in with the plants I am discussing above with Dax... thank you for your help

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 9:47AM
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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

pisifera is different from obtusa. Don't plant obtusa.

I'm talking species-pisifera, or seedlings. It's just something else to add to your mix.

As I explained with grafted cultivars, the root-systems will vary upon the grower. Nothing on Picea pungens should even be attempted. And generally, spruces need more light and not wet soil conditions. I would stay away from spruce including Picea mariana (seedlings.) They'll get sparse, they'll become a fungal mess, and they're the wrong tree.

I don't know what else I can say at this point besides "no plan" just start planting mixes of what you finally choose and plant them at least 12' apart and watch it grow and choose which ones to remove later. Plant some at 12' others at 14' others at 16', some at 20' and don't pay any attention to any sort of plan. You want a natural feel with multiple layers.

Best regards,


    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 11:01AM
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Many thanks again, Dax. I appreciate the confirmation to stay away from the spruces. I will focus on ch.pisifera now to figure out which cultivars would make most sense and would stop obsessing about the layout :) I feel more sane again with this project...

Enjoy the rest of your Sunday :)

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 2:00PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

There are some pretty handsome typical black spruce of some size in a few plantings in my region. Otherwise 'Doumetii' can be nice.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 3:04PM
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...plus, in my experience, Picea abies is one spruce that actually can withstand a fairly high water table. Likewise with our native white spruce-Picea glauca-it can often be found in the wilds of N. WI in or adjacent to wet areas. The black spruce-Picea mariana-is a straight-up wetland species in the northern part of my state, but I agree with the caveats that it is very slow-growing and oftentimes not even that attractive a tree. Also, the white spruce example I'm offering is from an area 200 to 300 miles north of you. It's a very different place than the wilds of Chicagoland.

I agree with Dax though that Chamaecyparis pisifera may hold promise for your site. Meanwhile, the species which comes closest of any of these to being native to where you are-Thuja occidentalis-still, IMO, holds the greatest usefulness for what you are trying to do. In particular, the HW we've already discussed, which more closely resembles the straight species than do most all other cultivars. And deer, while maddeningly frustrating, are not an insurmountable problem. We've recently (in my work) come up with an easy way to keep them off young Thujas, which while inexpensive and relatively unobtrusive, seems so far to be working. I can provide details at a later date if you wish.


    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 8:02AM
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Thank you Tom,
Yes, I am looking for the chamaecyparis p. now to mix with plicatas (and maybe hemlock). Can you recommend any nice TALLER chamaecyparis p. cultivars? everything I am finding would only get 2-3 or 3-4 feet high tops, and my chain link is 5 ft tall and I would love to be able to hide it!!

So, in summary, my plan for today is the following for the ~300 ft border. There are 3 sections of it, the further West ~50 feet sometimes damp but part sunny (which is not visible from the house because of 2 ~20 ft Norways are blocking the view). I want something narrow there because I started an orchard there, so I may do the HW bare root, nothing else and I will see if deer attack those. Then I have ~200 feet section which is mixed, part sunny and some areas get damp and shady, so this is my main concern, this section I see from various parts of the house. I would like to plant a natural looking hedge (Dax's influence). But now you got me thinking again, should I try to mix in picea abies cupressina with the plicatas and chamaecyparis p.? The old norways which are planted in the sunnier area are doing extremely well in that area... Then at the end (of the 300ft border), I have a sunny but swampy wet area of ~50 feet in which area I only care that it is green and tall to block the view of the private road and the main road visible in the distance. So, I just need to do a background green. I do not plan on cutting/shearing trees there. So, for this section I am still not completelely decided... maybe GG or plicatas straight species but worried about the size being too wide and taking too much space. I have a question for a different spot in my yard, adjusent to this swampy area, but this is ~20 feet of swampy wet, often standing water and mostly deep shade, what do you think, would chamaecyparis nootkatensis pendula w/metasequoias or taxodium distichum be an option for there?

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 1:30PM
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