Thoughts on 'Hybrid Willows' vs. 'Thuja Green Giant'?

candace70March 4, 2006

The back of our yard is in need of some privacy screen, as it faces other yards. The main portion of the yard is flat, but it slopes down towards the boudary lines. The houses behind us actually are on another street and are below us. From the other street, you can see up into our yard.

We are looking to plant something that is fast growing and offers privacy.

I was all set on the Thuja Green Giant but have just seen the Hybrid Willows. The willows appear to grow faster and taller, the Thujas retain their conical shape (so pretty!).

Does anyone have any experience with either of these? Thanks!

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tree_oracle(z6b MA)

Plant the Green Giants. The hybrid willows are garbage trees. Sure they grow incredibly fast but the wood is extremely weak. Consequently, they are constantly dropping leaves and branches and can blow down altogether in a bad windstorm. Being willows, they also need a lot of water and are best planted in moist soils. Their root systems are extremely aggressive and will seek out water sources such as a septic drain field.

I can't say enough positive things about the GGs. I planted a row of 21 of them to screen out my neighbors backyard pool. They are planted in extremely sandy soil (ie. nutrient-poor, dry soil) and have done just fine. They have survived drought, high-winds, and heavy snowfalls without a problem. They grow very fast and unlike most arborvitae they keep a fair amount of green color in the winter instead of turning that ugly yellow-brown typical of the species. They also have a very pleasant smell. Mine are mulched heavily and I do give them some fertilizer at the start of each season. Here are two pictures of mine. The first is what they looked like when I planted them. They were 7ft tall then. The second picture is only two years later. The amount of growth in that short period of time is quite striking.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2006 at 4:49PM
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Willows have all the problems Tree Oracle mentions and more. Their roots are a major problem for sewer lines, septic system, water lines etc. But the Thujas have an issue too--deer and snow load damage. If you have any deer issues in your area, you are wasting money on Thujas--one of their favorite foods. The snow load problem can be dealt with by proper interior staking.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2006 at 5:43PM
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Okay, now I have read that the Thuja are deer resistant? We have a few, but live in a neighborhood. I have seen them once or twice, but I don't want to knowingly plant something they will come out to eat.

TreeOracle, can you tell me where you purchased yours? They are beautiful, for sure! I am having a difficult time figuring out which catalog has the best price, as they all seem to sell different sizes. I would need a minimum of 25 this year, and more if we can afford them. Of course, since privacy is the issue, we would like to buy them as mature as we can afford.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2006 at 5:54PM
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tree_oracle(z6b MA)

The problems that ginny mentions are not a problem to all Thuja. It's the Eastern Arborvitae that deer look at as candy. The stiff nature of that species also makes it susceptible to damage from snow load. GGs look like the Western Arborvitae from which they derive their heritage. The loose foliage doesn't hold on to snow well. I've never had an issue with mine and that is after many 2 ft + snowfalls in my area over the last few years. I was concerned about the deer issue when I bought mine but once again the heritage of GGs comes to the rescue. Apparently deer do not like the taste of them. They are reported to be deer-resistant and I believe it because I've never observed any deer damage on mine. I have a real problem with deer eating a lot of plants around my property, too. I've come home several nights in observed anywhere from 5-15 deer in either my front or backyards so they are definitely around.

I purchased my GGs at That Bloomin Place in Scituate (now called Every Bloomin Thing). At that time (2002), I purchased them for $65 per tree. Each tree was 7ft tall as I mentioned before. It was a very good price considering the size of the trees. Given their growth rate, you could purchase them considerably smaller and they would be the size of mine in the second picture after another year or two. I would look around at several nurseries in the area because they usually stock quite a few GGs early in the season in a vast array of sizes. You might be able to pick some up at Home Depot or Lowes for a very good price. I would definitely buy their stock early in the season though because it tends to look rather ragged later in the year.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2006 at 9:13PM
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Thanks for the pricing info - even though it is not current, at least I will have a guide.

I am going to call some local places and see what their prices are. I just spoke to DH and he prefers to buy them larger, even if it means we buy fewer this year, and add more next year.


    Bookmark   March 5, 2006 at 12:05PM
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Ginny is right. Our Thuja Green Giants that were planted in the summer (18 inches high), are now gone. Totally chomped off by either rabbits or deer. We planted 50 of them for a fast-growing privacy screen along our entire backyard. What a total waste of money. I suppose if we could have afforded the 6-7 ft. Thujas they might have survived the chomping. But all I can say is do avoid the smaller ones if you have the same wildlife we do in eastern PA.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2007 at 1:04AM
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terrene(5b MA)

Tree Oracle, those Green Giants are very attractive. I might like to put a few of those in my yard. How tall and wide do they get? Are they in full sun or part shade?

Last year I planted some "Emerald Green" arborvitae approx 6 feet tall along the side border I'm working on to create privacy from the neighbors. I planted them in a sort of zig zag pattern and there are also rhododendron, blueberries, azalea, White pine, and some mature Red pine in this border, as well as perennials. The border is about 20 feet wide and has lots of evergreens for maximum year-round privacy and also wildlife benefit.

Emerald green grows about 12-15 feet high and 3-4 feet wide. I didn't want an arborvitae that grew too tall, because that would have eventually blocked the neighbor's sun into their porch and kitchen.

I worry about deer browsing on them - but luckily nothing this year so far. We haven't had much snow cover this winter and the neighbors have LOTS of Yews which the deer love even more than the Arborvitae.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2007 at 12:24AM
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You really need to consider the ultimate height you want, and it would help to know what direction the border is from your house. If it's to your north, it's not as critical, but if to the east, west, or south, be *certain* that you plant something that won't get too tall, to avoid your whole yard being shaded out. Shade from conifers is a problem in winter, when the sun is to the south of us, the winter sun does a surprising job warming your house and lifting your spirits during cold sunny spells.

There are many small deciduous trees that top out under 20 feet, and reach that size fairly quickly. They provide complete privacy when they're leafed out, which is, coincidentally, when you are most likely to want privacy in your yard. Even taller varieties of deciduous trees don't interfere too much with winter sun, being leafless, but they still obscure the view through their branches quite a bit during winter. Many small trees also have flowers, an added bonus.

Green Giant is being so heavily planted in areas of New England that I'd be a bit reluctant to use it. A mixed border of trees and shrubs looks a lot more inviting, especially a mix of evergreens and deciduous ones.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2007 at 4:10PM
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I am also considering the hybrid willow or leyland cypress. The GG is poisonous to horses. I am trying to block out about 500' of fenceline from neighbors and for privacy in general.
Any other suggestions?


    Bookmark   March 19, 2007 at 11:19AM
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I am far from a expert on this, but here is my take on your two choices.
The hybrid willow as mentioned above has it's issues. I also believe they do not live very long and they lose their leaves during the winter. No privacy for 5 months a year.
The Leland Cypress are very similar to the GG. I planted 200 around my buddies property 20 yrs ago. They all doing very well. Some are in the pasture with his 2 horses and they don't seem to bother the trees. They do like sunshine. Those planted with lots of direct light grew much faster then those in partial shade.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2007 at 11:40AM
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Do GG's do well in shade? Also anyone have experience with Leyland's?


    Bookmark   September 25, 2007 at 12:37PM
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I am trying a GG in shade at the edge of the woods with tree root competition. So far so good. I am watering occasionally.

I also put one on a sunny slope that doesn't retain much water. (yes, I made a water well and mulched heavily). I should probably go compare their heights.

I bought 3gallon plants for $27 at a good garden center this year. THey were about 30-36" tall.

I've had my eye out for them at HD and Lowes, but never saw them there.

I plan on sticking Irish Spring bars around them all just to be safe. Deer are a fairly mild problem here. ONce in a while they have come around. I always keep deterrents around anyhow.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2007 at 1:26PM
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Thanks Wendy that is very helpful. How long has the one in the shade been in the ground? I hear that Leyland's are better for shade but GG's better because deer will leave them alone. If they do bother it use the egg wash solution to keep them away. One dozen eggs (strained) and 2 gals or water in sprayer works as well as store bought concoctions.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2007 at 2:30PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

I have been toying with the idea of adding the Emerald Green because of it's shorter height than the Green Giant . I had read that they wanted full sun and will do poorly in my conditions which are 3 hrs of sun in the morning under neighboring Silver Maples, in the root zone of those trees. So I decided against them. I also struggle with the issue DTD brought up about placing them on any side of your house other than the north. Unfortunately the West is the side I need privacy on and all along that lot line I am trying to establish decidious shrubs.

I started out with small plants and of course, they are having a slow time of it getting going under those trees.
I am very tempted to add something evergreen to one location so I don't have to look at my neighbor's shed and usual messy area around it. I think if I do, it is going to create more shade for the other plants trying to get as much sun as possible. The Mahoney's here has the Emerald Green on sale for $20. which is the shorter variety, I think. I don't have deer problems here at all, but with either the Green Giant or the Emerald Green, I didn't think I had enough sun for them. Now I see treeoracle's photo and his appear to be planted right under trees and I wonder how much sun they are getting.

The 12-14ft range of the Emerald Green is just the right height for me and even one placed judiciously could at least screen out part of what I am looking at, but I thought one narrow tall plant among rounded decidious shrubs might look foolish and I probably would create too much shade with three of them.

Wendy, did you learn something about the GG that made you think they could survive under trees? Would the GG and the Emerald Green have the same cultural needs?

Great photo treeoracle.

Thanks :-)

    Bookmark   September 26, 2007 at 5:51AM
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thoroughbred, mine has been in the ground since May. Every time I go check on it to see if its struggling, it looks perfect -- not a speck of browning. Ditto for the one at the top of the hill that must have been powder dry from time to time this season.

pm, It was mostly a shade issue rather than dry-shade issue. I added 3"-4" of compost initially to the entire large area. I provided supplemental water the first 2 years and some even this the 3rd year. So far so good.

I have been researching good evergreens for awhile for my woods edge in shade as alternatives to hemlocks. There were no definitive results. But I ended up with Blue Princess hollies, Taxus capitata (left unpruned) and arborvitea. There was an order among them of which would most likely do better, but I forget what it was. I just got them all. The hollies get the most sun which isn't saying a lot. I also have a Jap Umbrella pine and Oriental Spruce 'Skylands' that are on the most sunny end (4-5 hours).

I assumed all the arborviteas would have the same cultural needs. But I am not sure if there is a difference between east and west -- except that one is Z3 and one is Z5. Being Z5A, I would have preferred the Z3, but GG is Z5. EG is Z3

    Bookmark   September 26, 2007 at 5:02PM
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Great advise thanks wendy!

    Bookmark   September 27, 2007 at 8:59AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Thanks Wendy..I also researched my 'woodland' edge, although I have to laugh to call it that. [g] I also ended up with Blue Princess and Taxus, the Hicksii version. I had not found arborvitae in my research as one that would tolerate the shade and particularly my dry shade. Silver Maples are notorious water hogs from what I have read. What type of trees are you planting near?

    Bookmark   September 27, 2007 at 5:29PM
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pm, my woods are mostly pines and oaks. Yes, bad but not as bad as maples from what I hear.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2007 at 6:27PM
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I think the Green Giant is a great tree, just don't by it from The trees they send are about 1/4 the size of the tree they show in there sample picture. The Better Business Bureau give them a giant F with a warning. Look them up at the BBB by their phone number. I support the tree. I just don't want anyone to make the same mistake I made. I think the Green Giant is a great tree, just don't by it from The trees they send are about 1/4 the size of the tree they show in there sample picture. The Better Business Bureau give them a giant F with a warning. Look them up at the BBB by their phone number. I support the tree. I just don't want anyone to make the same mistake I made. I am trying to spread the word. Has any one else been cheated by this company. They will not answer email or phone messages after you pay.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2009 at 10:58AM
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Report them on the garden watchdog, at dave'g garden -google "garden watchdog and it will show up. That's where most people check before they order from a new mail-order nursery.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2009 at 10:27PM
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Is it ok for me to plant the green giants close to my septic lines? If i run them across the back of my properly line, some will only be 10 feet away from the septic lines. My concern it that they will work their way into these lines, and cost me a lot of money down the road. Please advise.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2009 at 7:51AM
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I think this question is a little outside our area of expertise, and you should consult the building department guys at your town hall for recommendations. That said, most conifers have compact root balls, without the wide spreading surface roots that trees like maples have.

The recommendations for planting I've seen on line (which you can google) are pretty conservative. It also may depend on what you mean by "septic lines" - drainage field lines are certainly going to have different requirements than solid pipes that run to town sewers, for example.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2009 at 10:24AM
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I need something in our backyard fir privacy and would love to get the GGs however our backyard is extremely wet and gets a sizeable amount of water when we get heavy rains. Would these be able. To hold up in these conditions? If not what would you recommend, preferably that grows fast. Thanks in advance for any suggestions.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2009 at 11:52AM
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naturalstuff(Z6 / CT)

Wondering if you planted the Hybrid Willows. I'm looking into them a.s.a.p. How well have they been doing for past 3 years??

    Bookmark   March 26, 2010 at 2:51PM
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I have planted some of the trees in question and some that might be of help. Last year I planted 17 hybrid willows in shaded areas, and all that didn't get eaten are now budding. Apparently bunnies like to eat them and 3 got nipped to the ground and I believe 2 are dead. Because they came through the cold winter so well, I am going to buy another 15 and plant in a number of different locations. Couple years ago I planted 3 dawn redwood trees and I must say I am impressed with how resiliant they are. Before I put up a fence, the snow was so deep it broke all the branches off and had to grow from scratch every year. last year they grew about 2.5 feet and now have nice little green buds on all branches. I can't wait to see how they do this year. I ordered 15 Thuja GG and have spots marked and preped for their arrival. I will keep you informed on how they arrive and how they grow this year. I think they will be fine as I plant with care and use a mineral spike on all conifers. Also, this year bought 3 royal empress trees, repotted them a couple days ago and now have tiny little buds. This tree is supposed to grow insanely fast with beautiful purple flowers. I will keep informed as to their progress.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2010 at 12:44PM
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Royal empress (Pawlownia) is a terrible pest in many areas - I'd check with your county extension agent about problems you may encounter with it.

I have one that volunteered in my yard. I cut it to the ground every fall to prevent flowering and seed formation; the leaves are huge when it's treated this way. It's an interin solution, and I plan to dig it up when I get a chance.

The trees that produced the seed are about a mile away - must have blown in or been dropped by birds.

I would never plant one of these, having seen what they turn into!

Here is a link that might be useful: PCA Alien Plant Working Group - pawlownia

    Bookmark   April 6, 2010 at 7:29PM
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HMMMMM, will have to do check into that. I do not want to get into the invasive species battle. I know they are hard to kill once established. I think it should be pretty easy to dispatch by notching it with an axe and adding a little brush be gone to the wound. Thanks for the info, I will keep a close eye on it.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2010 at 2:50PM
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tree_oracle(z6b MA)

While paulownia is a garbage tree in general, I would love to see it take over places like the outer Cape. The landscape of scrub oaks and pitch pines that currently exist there easily makes it one of my top ten ugliest places on earth.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2010 at 5:14PM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

Now now, tree oracle, are you stirring the pot (forum) again? I guess you're one of those people who won't mind when the Sagamore Bridge goes under construction again, messing up the traffic onto and off the Cape.


    Bookmark   April 9, 2010 at 6:01PM
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diy_dude, You probably won't have to worry about paulownia if in zone 5, seems to die back alot and is more like giant big-leafed perennial.

naturalstuff, Hybrid willows work good as temporary option while the slow evergreens take their time. It depends on your needs whether it would be a good option for you.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2010 at 12:37PM
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Green Giants may be deer resistant, but they are not deer proof. We just had the worst winter since I planted my Green Giants 6 or 7 years ago in terms of high snow pack (northeastern MA) and the deer ate a few feet of the bottom of each of my approximately 20 Thuja Green Giants. They had never touched them before, because I think there was enough brushy food available that they preferred in previous winters. But make no mistake, deer do not "hate" Green Giant enough to not eat them when hungry.

They also munched on some native red cedars we have as well.

Does anybody know if the lower greenery will grow back at all? There are still branches, but they have been stripped of the green.


    Bookmark   March 17, 2011 at 10:50AM
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Thanks for the update, Pete. I've been considering GGs for a couple of years but have put off planting until we are also able to install a deer fence. You've confirmed my suspicion that deer will eat just about anything...

I am not sure about about rejuvenation for Thuja, but suspect that the prospects are bleak. I'll keep my fingers crossed for you though...

    Bookmark   March 17, 2011 at 7:50PM
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tree_oracle(z6b MA)

Your arborvitae should be OK if the branches were just stripped and not eaten back to the brown part of the branch. In general arborvitae can stand up to pruning any green areas of the branch. But if you prune them back too far on the branch, the damage is permanent.

Deer will eat anything if hungry enough but I have yet to see ANY damage on mine and I have a seriously bad deer problem. It is not unusual at all for me to walk outside and see seven to ten deer in the backyard browsing around. I've gone through a lot of trial and effort (and money!) trying to find things that they don't like to eat and Green Giants are definitely on that list. I may have to get a hunting license this year so I can take care of my little deer problem. Mmmm...venison.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 7:47PM
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Are the Hybrid Willows deer resistant?

    Bookmark   April 9, 2011 at 11:16PM
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I'm looking for privacy in my back yard as well and the Hybrid Willow and Thuja Giant seem okay in most cases. My issue is that I need a screen that will give me 25-35 feet high total coverage, not just to the tip of each tree's center. Does anyone know of a privacy screen tree I can plant that will grow 40- 50 feet fast?

    Bookmark   May 22, 2011 at 10:37PM
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tree_oracle(z6b MA)

How fast are you talking about? The Green Giants will easily reach 40-50 ft in a decade. If you are talking about a short time frame then very little fits the bill. Possibly some bamboo?

    Bookmark   May 22, 2011 at 11:00PM
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I live in Dallas Texas, does anyone know if the Green Giant does well here??

    Bookmark   September 23, 2011 at 10:02PM
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Cari, this is a New England forum, but there must be one for Texas, too. Good luck!

    Bookmark   September 24, 2011 at 6:05PM
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Cari - I'm attaching a link to the Texas Gardening Forum. Someone there may be able to help you.

Here is a link that might be useful: Texas Gardening

    Bookmark   September 24, 2011 at 7:03PM
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bernd ny zone5

I am in zone 5a, have to fight neighbor's Green Giants, like climbing on a tall ladder to cut its branches back to let me access part of my own garden. When planting make sure that the whole future GG will be on your own property. GGs do not stop growing, no conifer ever will stop growing at its rate. GGs probably will grow taller at 1 to 1/2 ft per year, forever. They will also grow at probably 1/2 ft per year wider forever. Make sure that you offset the GGs centers from your property line by 10 ft, they will get 20 ft wide some year in the future. GGs are probably nice in large landscapes, not in 1/2 acre lots i.e..
Emerald Green thujas are much better behaved, I have 2 in my 1/2 acre lot, next to neighbor's monster GGs.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2011 at 8:58AM
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This is a great thread with great info!! I'm new to gardening but have fell in love with it! I want to plant some green giants against a chain link fence to block out my pool from my neighbors prying eyes.... A lot of websites such as burgess say they can be pruned to any size or shape and I was wondering if there was any truth to this? My plan is to buy 8, 5-6ft GG and let them grow for a few then lop off their tops at about 12 ft.... And then trim them into 1 solid rectangular hedge along the fence...I was going to use hybrid willows until I found out they weren't evergreen and kind of a garbage tree......... Anyone have any luck at using the GG as a hedge like this? Thanks

    Bookmark   January 30, 2012 at 9:03AM
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tree_oracle(z6b MA)

I would choose something else to use for your hedge. You are looking to keep a fast-growing 80 ft tree confined to 12 ft. It's not going to be easy. You will be trimming this hedge every time you turn around in order to keep it in bounds. It's certainly possible but it will be a lot of work. Emerald arborvitae are slower growing but they only get to be around 15-20 ft tall so they would work better for your situation. Many types of juniper grow upright , tall and relatively narrow and would also work. You may also consider some tall shrubs.

Burgess by the way is not a reputable company. If you look up a company at Garden Watchdog (you'll have to Google it, this site won't let me link to it) then you can get the scoop on various companies.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2012 at 7:05AM
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Yes, an excellent thread. I too am an amateur and now realize the "green giant" name should've been a tip-off. Looks like the Emerald green thuja is the right choice. Thanks!

    Bookmark   March 3, 2012 at 11:59AM
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I have a sloping back yard that I tried to border with GG afew years ago. I got them very small at about 24in. Where it tends to be wet through winter spring in the lower portion they did not survive. Is GG not wet tolerant or do you think if I started with a larger arb. it would do OK?

    Bookmark   March 25, 2012 at 2:44AM
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Steve Massachusetts Zone 5b


This is from the University of CT on the culture of Thuja plicata Green Giant.


easily transplanted from containers and B&B
likes moist air
prefers moist, deep, loamy soil
tolerant of acidic and alkaline soils
generally quite adaptable and tolerant once established
can be sheared to maintain shape and size
full sun; partial shade is tolerated but plants become thin, open and much less appealing
tolerant of somewhat wet soils

Small is usually OK when dealing with conifers. In fact over in the Conifer forum folks generally do not like large balled and burlap plants.

If your plants died this winter, it could be a few things.

1. It could be the water. Not many plants will sit in water for a good period of time. You could build a berm in that area to keep the roots out of the water.

2. Heaving - did you mulch your plants? This winter did not have snow cover and thus small plants would be more likely to heave out of the ground exposing roots to freezing weather.

3. Wind exposure - it could be that that part of your property is exposed to a strong (especially northeasterly) wind, thus desiccating the young plants. A wind screen for a few winters could solve this problem.

I would try the berm and the mulch first. See if that solves the problem.


    Bookmark   March 25, 2012 at 7:13AM
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I concur with the comments above. I have 10 GGs i put in about 10 years ago and they are about 25 ft tall now. we love them. I need more and am trying to find some in the ct area. any suggestions would be great. when i bought them they were about 5/6 ft tall

I have bought some from and others online and it is a waste of money. I think i bought 50 once and they were all dead within 2 years. buy larger ones is my suggestion. going cheap is a waste of money.

good luck

    Bookmark   March 25, 2012 at 10:50AM
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Thanks. They didn't die from winter, they just slowly didn't do well until death. It's funny because the line that follows the yard back, you can see in the higher part of the yard they are the largest growth, and going down towards the wetter area they get smaller and smaller until the back row which all died. So this is why I think it was the water issue.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2012 at 11:17PM
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oldpatct--not sure if you're still looking for green giants, but just in case:

Van Wilgen's garden center in Branford has pretty big ones (maybe 6-7 feet, but I'm guessing) for around $85. We bought one from them last year and it's doing beautifully.

The real find, though, is Agway in North Branford. Today I bought 2, each about 5-6 feet, for 29.99 each!! They look great. That was the sale price, but the regular price is only $33. If you're not close to North Branford, maybe you have another Agway near you? They had them listed in their circular, which makes me think they would've shipped to all stores.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2012 at 12:50AM
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Thanks Krdpm

I will call them and head over tomorrow to the Agway. Much appreciated. I love these trees

    Bookmark   May 26, 2012 at 7:56AM
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