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Milberger's Nursery and Landscaping
3920 North Loop 1604 E.
San Antonio, TX 78247

Open 9 to 6 Mon. through Sat.
and 10 to 5 on Sun.

Three exits east of 281, inside of 1604
Next to the Diamond Shamrock station
Please click map for more detailed map and driving directions.

Click here

Platycladus orientalis
(oriental arborvitae, Chinese arborvitae, arbor vitae)
Cupressaceae (cypress family)
Zones: 6-9 (all of the South)

I know everybody is trained to hate arborvitae these days, but we can't hide from its historical use in southern gardens. And of course there's hardly a cemetery in the South that doesn't have this common evergreen in it. According to my Grandmother Ruth and great Aunt, Ruby Dee, they lined the "walk" up to my great grandmother's house. "Big-Momma" as we all called her, had a number of pretty things in the yard.

I recently polled my collection of old southern nursery catalogs to see what plants were the most popular. In a stack of 19 catalogs from 1851-1906, arborvitae was offered by 15 of them! Still don't like it do you?

Platycladus orientalis was formerly known as Thuja orientalis and Biota orientalis. The Chinese arborvitae is a native of Mexico. Just kidding! It's from China of course. According to The Hillier Manual of Trees and Shrubs (1993) it was introduced to Europe around 1690. In America, John Bartram and Sons' nursery carried it in 1792. In his October 28, 1854 letter to the Natchez Daily Courier, nurseryman Thomas Affleck said: "The Arbor Vitae is well known--that is, the Chinese, (orientalis,) the sort common here. And to form a pretty screen hedge, I know of nothing more beautiful..." It was listed in his 1851-52 Southern Nurseries catalog as Thuja orientalis. Langdon Nurseries of Alabama listed Biota orientalis, B. aurera, B. hybrida, B. meldensis, and B. Filiformis Pendula in its 1881-82 catalog. The Mission Valley (Texas) catalog of 1898-99 offered B. Aurea, B. Aurea Nana, B. Orientalis, B. Pyramidalis, Arbor Vitae Compacta, and Rosedale Arbor Vitae. The Rosedale arborvitae is a dwarf juvenile foliaged type introduced by Rosedale Nursery of Brenham, Texas and carried by many early nurseries across the South. The 1906-07 Fruitlands Nurseries (Georgia) catalog listed Aurea conspicua (their introduction), Aurea nana (Berkman's Golden Arborvitae, their introduction), Aurea pyramidalis (their introduction), Japonica filiformis, Intermedia Green, and Rosedale arborvitaes.

Due to on-again-off-again popularity and its survivability, there are many old established, often overgrown, arborvitaes throughout the South. An effective way of utilizing these according to Bill is to limb them up into attractive multi-trunked small trees. I've had others tell me they make good kindling as well.

In honor of arborvitae being such a popular early southern nursery plant, I have planted three dwarf golden arborvitaes in the yellow section of my rainbow border, next to the also maligned variegated Arundo donax. Some plants don't deserve all the grief we give them. Like I tell my mamma about our "occasional" undesirable relatives and ancestors; you can't hide from your true heritage. And if you didn't know who they were, you might even like them. She doesn't buy it though.