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Thuja

Arborvitae
Cupressaceae
Evergreen, Trees

Neat, symmetrical plants often trimmed into geometrical forms—globes, cones, and cylinders. Juvenile foliage is feathery, with small, needlelike leaves; mature foliage is scalelike, carried in flat sprays. Foliage in better-known varieties is often yellow green or bright golden yellow. Small cones are green or bluish green, turning to brownish. Arborvitaes will take both damp and fairly dry soils, but they grow best in well-drained soil.

Thuja occidentalis

Native to the eastern U.S. Upright, open growth to 30–60 ft. tall and 10–15 ft. wide, with branches that tend to turn up at the ends. Bright green to yellowish green leaf sprays. Foliage turns brown in severe cold, will scorch badly in winter in coldest, windiest Rocky Mountain gardens unless the plants are shaded and watered. Needs moist air to look its best. The basic species is seldom seen, but smaller garden varieties are common. Among these, the taller ones make good informal or clipped screens, while lower kinds are often used around foundations, along walks or walls, or as hedges. Some have gold-colored foliage.

Thuja plicata
Thuja plicata

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Thuja plicata

Native from coastal Northern California northward to Alaska and inward to Montana. Plants grown from inland seed are hardy anywhere in the West; those from coastal seed are less hardy to cold. Can reach over 200 ft. tall in the coastal belt of Washington, but a more typical garden size is 50–100 ft. tall and 25–60 ft. wide. Slender, drooping branchlets are closely set with dark green leaf sprays. Single trees are magnificent in large lawns, but bear in mind that their lower branches spread quite broadly—and that the trees lose their characteristic beauty if these are cut off. Many compact varieties are available, some with gold to yellow foliage.

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