Berckmans’ Golden Arborvitae is one of the most reliable and easy-to-grown evergreens, with beautiful golden spring foliage, maturing to a yellow-green that lasts all winter long. The branches have a unique flat, vertical structure that gives this tree a distinctive appearance, and it grows steadily to about 5 feet by 3 feet in 10 years, eventually maturing at 12 to 15 feet tall. Grow it as a lawn specimen or among the planting around your home. Use it as an attractive background plant in larger beds, or as a screening plant. It can also be easily clipped as a hedge. This plant is reliably hardy in zones 6 to 8, and it also grows well in sheltered spots in zone 5.
- Bright foliage is golden to yellow-green
- Unique vertical, flat branching structure
- Dwarf form, eventually growing taller
- Great choice for specimens or screening
- Drought resistant and easy to grow
Plant Berckmans’ Golden Arborvitae in full sun for the best color, although it will also grow in a little shade. It grows in a wide range of soils, from dry to very moist, but it should be well-drained. Once established this plant is very drought resistant, but water occasionally in long, extended dry periods. It rarely suffers from pests or diseases, and it needs no trimming to retain its elegant ‘flame’ shape. For a combination of golden color and easy growth, this plant can’t be beaten.
Everyone loves golden evergreens – they bring glowing warmth and brightness to our gardens, and they make beautiful features on a lawn, in beds, or even in planters. Because they are bright and cheerful all year round, they are great value too, giving so much from a single plant. Good form is necessary too, so that we don’t need to trim for neatness and solid upright structure. For a reliable and easily grown golden evergreen, look no further than Berckmans’ Golden Arborvitae. This great plant is an easy and undemanding addition to any garden, and we don’t hesitate to recommend its unique beauty.
Berckmans’ Golden Arborvitae is a broad, upright evergreen with the shape of a candle flame, or the spade on a deck of playing cards. It is broad and rounded at the base, full in the lower part, and then tapers gradually to a narrow top. This natural form, which needs no trimming, makes it perfect for framing windows or a doorway around your home, for planting on a lawn as a crisp sentinel, or for grouping behind flowering shrubs as a background. It can also be planted in a row for screening, and it trims well into a hedge if you wish. Younger plants will grow well in planter boxes and containers too, making this plant versatile, and sure to find a home in any garden.
The foliage of Berckmans’ Golden Arborvitae is unique, as the branchlets grow in perfectly flat vertical sheets of many shoots, like the pages in a book. These cluster tightly together, giving the plant a very attractive and distinctive profile. The new growth in spring and early summer is a beautiful golden yellow, outlining the vertical branches in a striking way. As summer progresses, they turn greener, but still retain that warm yellow-green glow all winter. They never burn or brown in cold weather. This handsome bush will grow up to 6 inches a year, so in 10 years it will be about 5 feet tall, and 3 or 4 feet wide at the base. Like all evergreens it continues to grow for life, and in time, if untrimmed, it will become 12 to 15 feet tall, and up to 10 feet wide. When planting, allow enough space for it to develop its full form, as these mature plants have great value in the garden.
Growing Berckmans’ Golden Arborvitae
A position in full sun will allow your plant of Berckmans’ Golden Arborvitae to develop the richest golden coloring and give it the best compact growth and densest form. It will also grow with a few hours of shade each day, preferably in the afternoon, but don’t plant it in a very shady location. It is completely hardy throughout zones 6 to 8, and it also grows in sheltered spots in zone 5. It grows very well in a wide range of soils, from dry to wet, but not in poorly-drained, boggy soils. Once established this plant is drought resistant, and it needs no special attention. If dry periods are severe and long, water your tree deeply from time to time, to keep it in the best of health. It will rarely suffer pests or diseases, and trimming is not needed, or advisable, as too much trimming will reduce that unique vertical look of the branches.
History and Origins of Berckmans’ Golden Arborvitae
For a long time known as Thuja orientalis, and still seen with that name, the correct name for the Chinese Arborvitae is Platycladus orientalis. There are special features, including the vertical branching, that give it this separate status. This tree grows wild in eastern Russia, Korea and China. It is hard to know exactly where it is wild, and were it has been introduced, because it has been widely planted in the East for centuries. Its wood is used for building Buddhist temples, and for burning as incense. Wild trees can grow 40 to 60 feet tall after many years. In the 19th century this tree was very popular, and many unusual forms were brought to Europe and North America from China or found among seedlings in nurseries.
Around the middle of the 19th century a form was being grown in Europe called ‘Aurea Nana’. Its bright, yellow-green leaves were popular to brighten the dark days of winter. This is the plant we know today as Berckmans’ Golden Arborvitae. Prosper J. Berckmans was a Belgian-American who founded Fruitland Nursery in Atlanta, Georgia in 1867. He was responsible for developing the Georgia peach-growing industry, and his nursery provided many young fruit trees, becoming the most important in the South. He also offered bushes for gardens, and his golden arborvitae was, and still is, very popular. It is possible that his original plant was a slightly different one, known today as ‘Conspicua’, but no-one is completely sure. Whatever its exact origin and identity, Berckmans’ Golden Arborvitae is a wonderful and easily-grown bush that will bring so much to your garden, and yet ask so little.