Asked on Jul 17, 2012

Questions About Shrubbery

by April
Several months ago I posted about some shrubbery (but you might as well call them small trees, if not for their size alone) on either side of my windows from the bedroom. I was told they may be part of the "Thuja" family, because of their shape and size, but their actual species within that family is still a mystery. They used to have blue type berries but have not in quite awhile and are starting to get brown patches. We've been having drought like conditions and extreme temperatures over the past few years, so we're wondering if that might have something to do with it. They're also kind of growing wildly and uncontrollably because we're not sure of just exactly how much trimming we should do to them and what would "safe." These shrubbery or "mini trees" have been here a very long time (presumably since the house was built), so I'd hate to think of getting rid of them. Therefore I have a few questions to shoot to the crowd and experts concerning them:
1) Concerning the considerable amount of brown patches on them -- There is still some green foliage on them, but the patches and how far they've gotten concern me and there are weeds near them. Is there a way we can nurse them back to their original splendor?
2) Their condition, size and trimming and identification -- They're uncontrollably large and we would like to trim them (and we have to the branches that were close to the house, but they have yet to grow back). Do we need an arborist or specialist in this situation? If so, how much would it cost and where would we start looking?
3) Opinions and possible identification guesses are welcome.
Attached is a close up of the foliage from my window. Since i can't upload pictures from the iPad, I will post a url to it instead. The URL is: . You can also find a picture of it in my profile.
I hope no one minds the long post. :)
questions about shrubbery, gardening, landscape, Picture of the Shrubbery in question Sorry about the blurry small photo it was taken from the iPad
Picture of the Shrubbery in question... Sorry about the blurry small photo - it was taken from the iPad.
questions about shrubbery, gardening, landscape, A pic of the shrubbery from an earlier post
A pic of the shrubbery from an earlier post.
  13 answers
  • 360 Sod (Donna Dixson) 360 Sod (Donna Dixson) on Jul 17, 2012
    I would like to help but the site won't let me log in unless I am a member. Will try to see on your profile

  • April April on Jul 17, 2012
    Thanks! Sorry about that, but that was the only way it would let me add it. Now that I'm on the main PC I'll upload the photo.

  • Douglas Hunt Douglas Hunt on Jul 18, 2012
    That looks like arborvitae (Thuja is the Latin for the species) foliage to me. Are you giving them any supplemental water? In terms of pruning, the good news is that your trees will produce growth from dormant buds on old wood, but it is not a good idea to try to correct years of neglect in one season. See the attached for pruning tips, but if you are not comfortable doing so, it would probably be best to call in a pro:

  • Jeanette S Jeanette S on Jul 18, 2012
    So sorry about your "trees" but a lot of beautiful things are distressed in the extreme dry weather we have been experiencing. Here in Atlanta very large trees are coming down now that we are getting our typical afternoon thunderstorms that have winds! It seems that this is normal after years of drought. Surprisingly, it is found that so many of these hugh trees are hollow on the inside once they come down!

  • Walter Reeves Walter Reeves on Jul 18, 2012
    I think your best course would be to remove and replace them. Pruning needled evergreens is very problematic and they will always need to be pruned if they recover from the serious cutting you might give them now. Why not try a small Indian hawthorn?

  • April April on Jul 18, 2012
    Douglas - Thanks for the identification and tips! I was looking it up on the net earlier, and I think you could be right. It does look a lot like an arborvitae, in particular Eastern. No, to the question about supplemental water, *blushes* - not to sound ignorant but we've always just thought to let nature take its course. The other bushes we have sprout up like wildfire without much gardening and we had no idea that these guys needed more specific care - except for pruning. Though, as Jeanette indicates, there has been a whole lot of storms here recently with really heavy rain - hopefully that'll be beneficial to them. I'm so glad to know that they can be pruned and that they will produce more growth! We love these and would hate to get rid of them - especially since they've been here since the house was built. It's not that we don't care for our bushes, as we have tried pruning them before (especially the limbs that are close to the house), but have never really felt comfortable to do much pruning, for not being certain what is good for it. I understand how these things take time and how being gentle with pruning is a must. As for the brown patches, do you feel it's just parched or does it have something like "canker"? I read the conifers can be prone to that sometimes... Jeannette - Yeah, I've been hearing a lot about the storms recently. It's such a shame. I hope you haven't lost any of those beautiful plants and trees, as from the sound of it, it sounds like you have. Thanks for your post - you all are in my prayers. Walter - Thanks for your reply and suggestions. However, getting rid of them is just not an option we're willing to take. They're long established and home to the most wonderful spot for bird watching. Sorry if my post was misunderstood, but we're not going to do any major pruning to them, but rather take it slow as Douglas suggested. I just wanted to post this to make sure of its identification and to know what is and isn't okay in terms of pruning.  The Indian Hawthorne sounds lovely, but if I ever did have to replace them, I think I would want more of the same. :)

  • KMS Woodworks KMS Woodworks on Jul 18, 2012
    When I was a kid we had some junipers that "took over" the landscaping in the front yard....after years and years of neglect ( neither mom or dad where much in the landscape artist group) we dug them out and replaced...there comes a time when bigger is not better. BTW after cutting the main branches off we wrapped a chain around the stumps and pulled them out with the station wagon...the paved drive was right there so it worked pretty good....that old wagon was a beast with a 400hp V8...we used it to pull our camper.

  • Becky H Becky H on Jul 18, 2012
    We've owned arborvitaes before, and it seemed their worst problems were bag worms which caused the foliage to turn brown. Those are rather hard to control, particularly when the arborviatae is large. You might check for those as the source of "brown out".

  • April April on Jul 18, 2012
    Hmm my comments are not showing up. I'll try this again. :) KMS - Sorry to hear about your Junipers. I understand what you mean. But i'm not ready to give up yet in trying to save these guys. Becky - Thanks! I will have to look into that. :)

  • Douglas Hunt Douglas Hunt on Jul 19, 2012
    April, if you want to "let nature take its course," you need to plant drought-tolerant plants. Arborvitaes are definitely not in that category. I would suggest you have a pro come out and assess your trees and let you know how much pruning he or she thinks they can take. If, however, these are right next to your house and are going to require constant pruning to keep their size in check, that is a recipe for continual problems.

  • April April on Jul 19, 2012
    Thanks, Douglas! I apologize for sounding ignorant. We had no idea, especially since they were planted as though they were shrubbery or hedges for the house. I guess you could say I definately don't have a green thumb. LOL. With that said, I think I will take your advice and try to get a pro to take a look at them. I only wish we had looked into this sooner, but we didn't know where to look until Hometalk came along. This may sound like a dumb question, but would we look into a tree service, arborist or something else for this and do you know a round about figure of what they cost to do something like that?

  • KMS Woodworks KMS Woodworks on Jul 19, 2012
    @April...I think a few phone calls would let you know about the cost and whether of not an arborist or a more experienced landscaping outfit is the ticket. You can use the search tool above to find people in your area.

  • April April on Jul 19, 2012
    KMS - Thanks for the advice. Exactly. :) I'll try to keep you guys posted.