Arborvitae Dilema

At a flip (my wife’s recent passion), I have a row of Arborvitae which have a lot of damage below the fence line. I’m not sure what did it, but it could be deer browsing. Another possibility is that it gradually died out due to lower sunlight levels on the North West side of the fence.

So, the question is what to do about it.
1.) Prune a lot- My first inclination is to prune off all the the small, mostly dead wood and attempt to make it look like they are a sculpted topiary.
2.) Do nothing- It looks like there is some re-growth. But, I’m concerned that it won’t be much, or come back very quickly.
3.) Take them out and plant something else. I do have some lilacs which may go well there. It does seem somewhat wasteful to chop/dig out mature plantings.

I should mention that the hope is to have the house on the market in ~1.5 months, so I need to make it look good (or at least OK) relatively quickly. Anyone dealt with something like this or have any advice?

Whole row:

Closeup of one:

Bob looks just like my arborvitae I had in Maine. It was deer. I planted lavender underneath the trees and the deer hated it. They eventually grew back, however, your ‘browsing’ looks old. I would go for the topiary look.

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Lilac does not bloom well in shady area and may get mildew. If I were a buyer, I would find those arborvitae unattractive.

A row of Rose of Sharon will look good, fast growing and partial shade tolerant but they are not ever green.

Yes but the deer will eat those too. They will not eat lavender.

Deer hate herbs and don’t eat them. Its worth a try.

Thank you both for your helpful comments.

I didn’t know what lavender looks like, so I googled it and Wikipedia said “a genus of 39 known species of flowering plants in the mint family”. I’m thinking that maybe I have lavender as weed in one row of my apples. It smells like mint when pulled. Is this lavender?

That’s a good idea. I have some Rose of Sharon seedlings that were growing wild in my yard last year that I potted up for this eventuality, some pretty large.

I just need to spray them for a few months. Then it would be up to the new owners to protect them. The backyard used to be completely deer fenced, but a section came down at some point. So it would be possible for them to continue growing, long term. RoS would also be good in that it blooms for a while during the summer- nice in case it doesn’t sell right away.

Maybe I should plant lavender around the RoS or topiary and get the best of both worlds. I may try pruning them to see how ugly it is…

Moving bob?

Nope, not for a while- maybe 10 more years? I’ve invested too much time in the plants I’ve got growing here. My wife has dragged me into buying (often from banks), renovating and selling houses. I do nothing (other than maybe changing light bulbs, and of course looking for problems…) inside, but I have been planning out (and doing at least some of) the outsides.

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These look just like the arborvitaes that were across the road from my grandmothers house in Colorado. In the winter the deer would move to lower elevations and do damage like this to whatever they could reach.

I believe from experience that Rose of Sharon is not be attractive to deer, but if you are putting the house on the market so soon you would need to purchase full sized shrubs and it would still not look great unless they completely filled in the empty area in a way natural to the eye. .

The deer will keep eating the regrowth unless you use an effective repellent and the trees will continue to look weird until you get adequate regrowth or a planting underneath is well established, it seems to me.

A good real estate agent (and they certainly aren’t all good) will have practical suggestions on what will make the area most attractive to potential buyers for the least investment. If I was that agent I’d probably suggest cutting down the trees and planting impatiens or some shade loving flowers you can buy by the flat- but I’m no expert on buyer tastes. I also can’t gage the importance of the privacy screen created by the trees just by looking at the screen itself- need more context.

If the screen is important I’d just cut all the lower branches and pretend that was the plan and fill in the bottom with whatever appeals to the eye and will survive in relative shade.

A consultation with a landscape designer might be worth the bucks also. Often a relatively inexpensive investment in landscape is a worthwhile expense in preparing a home for sale.

I just reread your intention with the property and how you resell homes so you must realize most of what I wrote. Oh well, I shall leave it up anyway.

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Heyyy, looks like my backyard! There is a hedge of massive 40 year arbs along the back of my property. Those are slowly falling apart due to being planted too close, though. They will fill is a bit over the summer, but you’ll wind up with this “shelf” at 3-4’ high that looks pretty silly.

I just filled in 20 foot gap with spicebush. Native, deer resistant, grows well just about anywhere, and host plant for Spicebush swallowtails. Not overly ornamental, though.

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This light purple bush is lavender. There are a few kinds. This one is taller than most. It takes a couple of years to get going.

I wish You posted earlier. I just removed all my RoS last week to make room for fruit trees. All 7 six ft tall bushes. They would make an instant lovely living fence.


Thanks Alan. Lots to think about here. In the first couple, I mostly had to add- I’m naturally adverse to removing, as can be seen by looking at my yard (not something almost any buyer would want, other than maybe a few fellow GrowingFruiters).

The consensus seems to be that they won’t re-grow enough to look normal anytime soon, so I don’t think there is much downside to me giving them a prune to see how it looks. I like the impatiens suggestion- I think I’ve planted it by chance (Home Depot deal), but I just read more about it and it seems like something I should use more.

The ones I dug up and potted last fall are in the 4-6’ range. Not quite as big as Mamuang’s, but they should have some flowers this summer. I may also be able to find some more seedlings on the edge of my neighbors yard, in an unkempt no mans land.

Mine definitely isn’t that tall. I’m RG colorblind, so I’m not sure if this is blue or lavender, but the flowers look similar (though shorter than yours). It is definitely tough and quick to spread, as can be evidenced by this pic. I’ve been trying to remove it and am losing ground.

That is ‘Creeping Charlie’ one of the worst weeds to try and get rid of. Shallow, lateral roots, go everywhere and smell when you pull them up. A little minty but more like Listerine. Horrible thing get it out!

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Bees love it, though!

Mrs. G. Is right.

I did not know what it was 4 years ago. Then, by the time Know what it is, it takes over my lawn.

In fact if anyone know how it get rid if creeping Charlie, I will very grateful.

I’ve been reading about it and it seems like there are 3 options:
1.) A herbicide called Dicamba. It is often included with nasty stuff like 2-4-D, the chemical which toasted a lot of TheCityMan’s trees last spring.
2.) Borax. The problem being that enough borax to kill it will often kill everything else.
3.) Hand pulling and barriers.

As un-fun as it sounds, I think I’ll need to go with #3. And I should get on it before all those nice flowers become seeds…

Mamuang, I almost cleaned my lawns from chickweed (aka creeping Charlie). Almost, because it is constantly trying to come back, because all my neighbors have it. I used several different brands of herbicides, one of them is Ortho purple here is the link: Ortho. The other one is Bayer advanced Bayer. There are some others, but you have to be careful and to see if it is listed to be effective against chickweed. The best time of application is when it is flowering as in Bob’s picture. It disappears and the grass grows fast and fills the gaps. I usually go the second time and kill what I did not at the first. At the other times it is a lot harder to kill. The second best time is in the late Autumn before it goes dormant. It is said that in Autumn herbicide goes into the roots and it kills the roots. I did it in Spring and Autumn and I like spring application more. In Autumn the grass also can suffer as it looks sick, but it recovers OK. During the last two years I cleaned different parts of my yard. It takes quite a lot of time and effort, to do spraying very consistently. One bad note is that creeping charlie can grow from seeds, so I see myself using herbicide in a future although it will be a lot easier when I had the whole yard full of it.

Thanks for your suggestions.

I tried #1. It did not work . Cost me quite a few bucks.

Have not tried #2.

Not really think I could accomplish # 3 as I stupidly let it grow on my lawn and intertwine with grass so tightly the that it is very hard to pull it out.

Just wonder if there are # 4, 5 …, please.

Bob, If I had 1.5 months to prepare that area the arb’s would get pulled out along with the other saplings, lots of mulch, and plant hostas. You watch the ads you sometimes find them at big boxes cheap. Cover the creeping charlie w/mulch, any herbicide w/ Banvel will damage anything else as it will be in the soil 2-3 months.

Often takes 2-3 applications because of the reseeding Creeping charlie does.