We are so lucky, here in Wisconsin, to have many beautiful native trees to choose from for our landscapes. If you have traveled to the reaches of Door County or any of the Northwoods counties, you have, no doubt, come into contact with a stately Eastern Hemlock. It is a versatile tree for those of you who are looking for a wonderful evergreen choice that is also a benefit for birds.
Let’s first focus on the benefit of the Eastern Hemlock to our gardens and our feathered friends. The soft, dark green foliage make it ideal as a specimen tree. It can be used in group plantings that can double as a screening hedge. The Eastern Hemlock can be sheared into a formal hedge, of any shape or size, maintaining dense foliage to the ground. It is fully shade tolerant which make it one of the few trees that can be used for screening in a shady area. Not only is the hemlock a wonderful garden plant, it is a preferred nesting site for many warbler species and food source for Juncos, Chickadees, and Pine Siskins.
The Eastern Hemlock is hardy from zone 3 to 7. This species grows at a medium rate and, under ideal conditions, can reach a mature height of 70 feet. It may take 200 years for it to reach maturity and can live for at least 800 years. Hemlocks prefer moist, well-drained soils in partial shade to partial sun. It can tolerate less favorable conditions (such as heavier clay soils) if sufficiently watered during the dry periods of summer, as long as the soil is well-drained. Eastern Hemlock will experience sever winter damage if used as a windbreak or planted in areas where it is necessary to use salt.
There are many different cultivars of Canadian Hemlock available. We currently have Tsuga canadensis and Tsuga canadensis ‘Gracilis’. The species, Tsuga canadensis are a great size to offer many plant use options. The variety, Tsuga canadensis ‘Gracilis’ is great for a rock garden, foundation planting, or as a low hedge for those shady areas in your garden. Watch our video or stop by to see either one of these great plants.