Western Red Cedar - Thuja plicata
Posted: Sep-29-2003 at 9:59am
Hello again...I'm more familar with growing perrenials instead of conifers, but I am planning to plant two 10" potted Wester Red Cedar (Thuja plicata)saplings that were given to me early summer from someone else's garden. I potted them separately in potting soil, fertilized regularly all summer, and now I want to put them in the ground next week. Knowing that they can get quite large, even in captivity (suburban America), though they do respond favorably to pruning too, I plan to site each trunk 10' from any structure or garden border. Each will have a 20' space to spread out at the base. I have clay soil, full sun, high water table, but the site is at the rise, highest part, of the back yard rather than in the lowest, swampy part (when it rains).
I plan to dig a hole 36" wide, about container-height deep with a mound in the middle and flair out the sides of the hole for the roots like I've seen in some diagrams for planting trees. I always put some sort of flower and root boost in the hole for perrenials, but I'm not sure about doing that for conifers. I'm told to use manure. Is that correct? If so, how much?
I have sandy loam left over from making a garden bed above ground and lots of organic compost as I'm laying on 2" as a top dressing over gardens for winter. How much of all three ingrediants? Or, a fourth ingrediant: Use some of the clay too as back fill?
You know, it's a good thing that a lot of this gardening is intuitive, because if it were anything like "my cooking," nothing would survive. So, from the "seat of my pants," thanks again for your wisdom and experience. Happy Gardening!
Posted: Sep-29-2003 at 10:27am
I love these trees! Bear in mind that they really suck up the water and you won't be able to plant much underneath them without lots of additional water. And the branches go all the way to the ground (while they are young) so you won't have room for plantings anyway (unless you prune up the lower branches). Also, they don't need much amendments since they are perfectly suited to our clay soils. If possible, I'd give them more room than 10' from a structure. Especially if the structure is a house. 30' sounds more safe to me. Also, they go through a "leaf" drop about this time of year (usually during a strong wind storm) so don't be surprised that they can be messy once a year. Young trees looks so cute and pyramidal - you'll just love them the first 10 years or so. But try to site them so that 50 years from now someone will not be cursing them. Don't spoil them with kindness - they are natives and do best when given natural conditions. They will send their roots down deeper if they don't get a lot of frequent shallow watering. Shallow roots on a big tree can mean big trouble in a wind storm. Good luck!
Posted: Sep-29-2003 at 5:49pm
Wanda, you mean to say these guys are going to get 60 feet wide...in suburbia America? I thought that was just in the wild, you know...ala "real nature."
If so, do you have another native conifer suggestion that won't go beyond 20 feet wide, and looks cute too...forever? I don't need to plant under it; actually, I'd prefer to not plant under it so it can have lots of branches. ...but these red cedars are so lacy-looking... Suggestions, please
Posted: Sep-30-2003 at 5:21am
I think that some of the varieties of cryptomeria would fill the bill sizewise. Be careful to read up on each variety first, though.
Also, there are varities of Western Red Cedar that are columnar to where the spread wouldn't be as much of an issue.
Once a seed, now a tree.
Posted: Sep-30-2003 at 9:25am
Actually, it seems like they get bigger (wider) in the city than they do in the crowded forests. But 20' should be enough room for them. It's not just the spread but also the height that you need to think about if you plant it near a house. These giants have been known to fall over or snap off in a strong wind. But they are probably more stable than Douglas Firs. I would go ahead and plant them - they are such slow growers and in a city lot, one can't be too concerned with the future owners 50 years from now - the whole place might be bulldozed under by then. Enjoy them while they are little.
I have a young Giant Sequoia in my yard as well as tons of baby trees that will never be able to make it to adulthood inlcuding a teen-aged Western Red Cedar and a Sitka Spruce that will need 400 years to grow up. My kids love climbing in the cedar with it's branches touching the ground. I figure if I'm able to enjoy them in my lifetime and perhaps plant a few trees that will live and thrive beyond my lifetime, that's all I can hope for. I didn't mean to discourage you. And, as Kellie said, there are some more columnar varieties and Cryptomerias can be stunning - there's even blue ones. But since you have the trees, plant them. Live with them for several years and then if they get too big, take them down. They are so darn cute - I even have a couple in my yard that the birds planted that are only 3' tall that I'm leaving for the time being because they are so cute but they are just weeds and will need to be removed one day. Good luck!
Posted: Sep-30-2003 at 9:56am
'Hogan' (aka 'Fastigiata') is one of the narrower forms of Western Red. I think there's another but I'm not sure.
There are varieties of our Doug Fir that might also work. I'll have to hunt through my notes to find the cultivar name for you. One form stays smaller and has bluer foliage, similar to Colorado Blue Spruce. Iseli Nursery and Porterhowse Nursery have websites to check for more info.
Another native that stays relatively narrow is Incense Cedar. Probably stretching the limits of native for your region (I can't recall and I can't find my Pojar and MacKinnon to verify) but a wonderful tall and narrow conifer. Best in sun conditions, as if Doug Fir. WRC will tolerate quite a bit more shade and still maintain branches to the ground.
You might also try The Conifer Society for more conifer information. They have a great database of conifers. I found out about this website from Don Howse/Porterhowse Nursery. When you visit Portland, his nursery in Boring is worth a stop. Schedule a 2 hour visit and he'll give you a great tour packed with conifer information.
I ditto Kellie's suggestion of Cryptomeria even though it isn't a native. I planted C. japonica 'Sekkan Sugi' last year and I love it! We saw a mature form of this one at the Elisabeth B. Miller garden last July (in Seattle) - it was 25'-30' tall and 15' or so wide IIRC. Lovely tree. They say it is best when it gets protection from hot afternoon sun but mine seems to do fine in full sun, even through this hot, dry summer. (thank goodness!)
Gardening in Sunset Zone 6, USDA Zone 8.
Bread feeds the body, indeed, but flowers feed also the soul. - The Koran
Posted: Sep-30-2003 at 10:02am
Oops, I just read Wanda's post. I had forgotten you already have the cedars, Caroline. Are you set on using both of them? If not, you could plant one farther out and then select a smaller conifer for closer to the house. The WRC would be a nice backdrop for many of the colored conifers, especially yellow/gold forms (I'm in my yellow/gold phase right now). Plus it would give your garden an additional layer of interest. Gardening in Sunset Zone 6, USDA Zone 8.
Bread feeds the body, indeed, but flowers feed also the soul. - The Koran
Posted: Oct-02-2003 at 10:34am
Thank you EVERYONE for your generous information. I decided on the Incense Cedar as it gets 18' wide, is drought tolerant, low on the disease end, can handle some wind, can handle the sun, and doesn't need much water after its first two summers. A local nursury has one in stock in a container; its about 4' high. If it's still there for their Oct. 14-26 Sale, I'll get it...or wait until their Christmas stock arrives around Nov. 1.
Before I went to look at the Incense Cedar, which is just as cute as the reds, and because I resued the two red cedars from being thrown into the garbage, I set them out front at the curb with a note...FREE. By the time I got back, they were gone. I am happy someone will be planting them rather than ending up in the garbage dump. Thank you again for your time and energy...this site is always so incredibably helpful! Happy Gardening to you all!
Posted: Oct-04-2003 at 12:23am
Incense cedar needs 40' on either side. The books are all wrong.
Twice as massive as Western Red.
( just picking on you - I was full of it )
Also a nice tree.
I like the Western Red best. There are several areas in Portland where people have structures as close as 8 feet to massive older forest specimens.
Its a matter of whether or not people mind cleaning a few needles off the roof.
As far as breakage and storms - I will stay at a friend's or hotel if I have any tall tree withing 60 feet of my house if a storm has winds exceeding 60 mph.
There is never a good reason to stay in a house surrounded with big trees in wind storms.
When I was in college, living at home, my mother would stay in the house during a storm and cringe laying on her bed. I'd just take a book into my tool shed which was about 60 feet away and out of reach of any tree that may topple.
One year, one 110 foot Doug. Fir went over toward the house, but leaned on another tree that stopped it.
Its amazing what a trunk can do to a roof, or how easily a large branch can spear a roof.