Meet Mark Cullen

Canada's best known gardening personality, Mark Cullen believes that Canadians of all ages need to play more - preferably in the dirt. A best-selling author with over 400,000 books in print, Mark reaches over one million Canadians every week through various media outlets. He is Home Hardware's horticultural spokesperson and regularly contributes to various magazines, gardening shows and newsletters. With a familiar style that people can relate to, he delivers a message that is compelling, fun, informative and inspirational - all based on his organic approach to gardening. In his spare time Mark enjoys driving his Ford Model A - and of course he loves to garden.

Cedar hedges: an investment that grows.

One of the ‘most asked’ gardening questions that I get is, “Is it o.k. to trim my cedar hedge now?”

Cedars (Thuja) are one of the most versatile evergreens in Canada. There are very few areas of the country where you cannot grow at least one variety of cedar and they always lend themselves to ‘trimming’ and make a great looking hedge.

When can I trim?
The truth is that you can trim a cedar hedge most any time of the year – you just cannot hurt it by pruning it at the ‘wrong time’ even in mid winter. However, there are better times of the season than others for pruning/trimming and this would be the best time of year, if you ask me.

Most cedar trees grow relatively consistently throughout the growing season. From late in the summer until early fall they push new growth, as long as there is moisture in the ground and the temperatures are not too high (say, over 30 degrees C). By pruning cedars this time of year you are giving them the ultimate shape that you desire and will still benefit from a slight ‘filling in’ of the foliage before winter sets in. This is akin to getting a hair cut and waiting a couple of weeks before you get your picture taken.

You know how your hair looks just after a trip to the barber? Kind of severe. A couple of weeks later, it has filled in a bit and looks pretty ‘natural’. Not a bad time for picture taking! Your hedges behave much the same way.

What Kind of Cedar makes a good hedge?

In Central Canada the native White Cedar (Thuja occidentalis) is the most popular of all for use as a hedge. It is inexpensive and often is dug from ‘native plantations’ almost bare root. They sit for a year or two in your garden before growing but when they do you can expect up to a meter of new growth each year. This usually occurs in the 3rd year.

Other Cedar tips:

- Autumn is a great time for planting all cedars!
- Prairie gardeners can choose from the ‘almost winter hardy’ Emerald Cedar (Thuja occidentalis ‘Smaragd’) (which will need to be planted on the east side of your home or wrapped with burlap in late fall for protection) and the much more hardy ‘Brandon Cedar’ (Thuja occidentalis ‘Brandon’).

- B.C. coastal gardeners can choose from many cedars including the native B.C. Cedar otherwise know as (Thuja plicata).

Pruning tips:
- When pruning, always shape the bottom of the hedge wider than the top. This allows even exposure to sunlight and helps to keep the entire cedar hedge looking thick and healthy.
- Use sharp, quality shears. I recommend ‘Mark’s Choice’ pruning shears. Guaranteed 5 years and made in Canada.
- If your hedge has been ignored for several years you can still bring it under control by removing up to 1/3 of the foliage each year until it looks the way that you want it to.
- A cedar hedge will live for 30 to 60 years depending on the variety and its’ location.

It is not true that cedars attract mosquitoes: they get this reputation from growing in low/wet land where mosquitoes tend to breed. It is their environment that can cause mosquitoes to grow in numbers, not the cedars themselves.

It is true that cedars are your best bet for a fast growing, evergreen hedge in most parts of the country.

Planting cedars:

- Mark your line with a string or garden hose, to get the hedge straight.
- Dig a trench ½ meter wide and 1/3 meter deep.
- Back fill the bottom of the trench with triple mix (1/3 top soil, 1/3 peat and 1/3 compost) or Mark’s Choice planting mix (the best that money can buy!).
- Stand your cedars upright in the trench before piling the remainder of the triple mix on their roots.
- Once the cedars are lined up straight, plant them using triple mix and step firmly on the soil as you plant, making firm contact between the soil and the roots of the new trees.
- Water thoroughly and stake every 2 meters with a ‘T’ bar or 2” X 2” stake, using heavy gage wire to secure them in place.
- Most important! Don’t be too ambitious when choosing your new cedars! New trees about 1 meter high will establish much more quickly than large, 2 meter high specimens, unless the large trees have been nursery grown.

Be patient! Your cedar hedge will grow and mature into a thing of beauty as time passes – and you attend to the annual trimming (yes, only once a year will do the trick!) AND you will have an investment that grows in value each year – unlike installing a fence!

Keep your knees dirty!