Full Speed A Hedge with American Pillar

In all my dealings with plant breeders and nursery people, I  never met anyone who  believed in their new plant as much as John Houser. Certainly every plant breeder feels his or her new invention is the best, but how many would postpone their retirement at age 85 to start up a nursery based on it. Houser did and said, “I’m too old to work hard, too mule-headed to retire.”

You see, John knew in his heart that he had found his “one in a million shot,” when he discovered an unusual branch mutation on an arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis) on his property. That mutation was an ultra-fast growing branch sport with a dense, narrow growth habit.  
“This particular arborvitae will withstand extremes of heat, cold, and moisture, making it a candidate for home landscapes, and screening situations in most of the lower forty-eight states.  Other plants commonly used for screening purposes, such as hemlock and pine, have diseases that are depleting their usefulness.  Leland cypress is being attacked by the lethal Cercospora needle blight which is now widespread across the South and East.  The American Pillar Nursery is positioned to fill the demand for a better, disease-resistant replacement plant.”  John Houser
Full Speed A Hedge is perfect for hiding bad views PDQ

In August of 2009, just days after Thuja ‘American Pillar’ was granted U.S. Plant Patent number 20,209,  Houser called to sell me on ‘American Pillar’. At the time, I eschewed arborvitae because one variety, Emerald arborvitae, dominated the market. It was the only cultivar our customers wanted to buy, grow, or sell. Selling a new cultivar would be difficult if not impossible. But John was, well, mule headed. He was not about to take no for an answer. He wore me down; I acquiesced and sent him a trialing license and he sent me 100 trial plants. I soon discovered that  John was right. His plant was very special. With a growth rate of a meter (nearly 40”) a year, ‘American Pillar’ was the fastest arborvitae I had ever seen; much faster than ‘Green Giant’ and narrower too. And when it comes to screen and hedging plants, fast and narrow is what every one wants: growers, landscapers and homeowners. And because of its ‘Hetz Wintergreen’ bloodline, John’s plant was both hardy and heat-tolerant. Most definitely, there was a market for this plant.    

In the meantime, John was ramping up his business, planting, hiring and selling to everyone in the greater Atlanta area. McMansions were being built at a crazy pace and these people wanted fast privacy. Of course, John was more than happy to help.  He developed a software program (AsICit) that landscapers used to show people how an ‘American Pillar’ hedge would look in their yard. 

He took before and after pictures to show everyone how fast his plant grew. And his dogged persistence and old-fashioned work ethic paid off. Growers and landscapers began to discover this super fast growing plant. Today, landscapers are buying every, decent sized plant available. Demand has been incredible.  

Mavis Houser next to an American Pillar Hedge.

But you don't have to be a professional landscaper to have access to this new, fast growing privacy plant. And you don't need to buy large, expensive landscape grade plants to get the same results. A new online retail program called Full Speed A-Hedge offers a tray of (8) 2 Qt sized plants that will quickly make 20 feet of privacy hedge. Plant them at 2 1/2 fee apart and 8 plants = 20 feet of privacy. The beauty of these smaller plants is that they're easy to plant and they establish faster than larger, more expensive plants. Below two photographs of a hedge at my brother's house. He had a neighbor that was, dare I say, a jerk, who put up an ugly, eighty foot long, 5' tall cyclone fence. To hide the fence and the neighbor I gave my brother four trays of the Full Speed A Hedge. In 2 1/2 years, planted 2 1/2 feet apart these little 2 quart plants had hidden the fence. In two years the plants were taller than the fence. In less than four years, you could not longer see the neighbors house or pole barn. Problem solved.  

American Pillar planted as Full Speed A-Hedge plants after two years reaching the top of a 5' fence

My wife standing next to the same fence and "Full Speed A-Hedge" after only four years

The key to getting the fasted possible growth is to make sure the plants get watered regularly when young. The soil should be moist but not soaking wet. Fertilize them in early spring. I recommend a high nitrogen fertilizer at label rates. Keep the plants free of weeds! Weeds will rob your plants of growth by competing for water, nutrients and sunlight. Mulch is a good way to prevent weeds. A two inch layer of composted wood chips will do the job and help retain water. That's it.  

John, like most people that develop new plants, never got rich. But for plant breeders it’s not about the money. It’s about that special feeling you get when you invent something useful, something beautiful, something that your fellow man appreciates. It’s about that one-in-a-million moment when you drive through a neighborhood and see your plant in someone’s yard. John got to experience that before a few years back. Some 70 years since he pulled his first paycheck from the landscape trade in 1938, John Houser has retired and is at rest, but his plant lives on. 

To locate plants for purchase visit FullSpeedAhedge.com     


  1. Janice Wood jimjanicewood@msn.com7:28 AM

    Hi Tim,
    I truly appreciate reading about the plants you encounter! I REALLY want to plant these awesome arborvitaes! We were victims of the EF5 tornado that devastated Joplin, MO and we lost nearly all of our 20 years of landscaping....Can you tell me where I could get 6 of these now? Would love to plant before the winter sets in. Thank you! {zone 6}

  2. Anonymous5:40 PM

    I'm truly saddened to hear of Mr. Houser's passing. Since reading on the internet (maybe a year ago?) about his discovery, I've caught his excitement and have been not-so-patiently waiting for this arborvitae to become available for retail sale. One could sense his pride and enthusiasm from his picture and write-up on his website. As a nearby Midwesterner (near Midwest Groundcovers, actually) I'm thrilled to hear of your success and hope I will see them soon.

  3. Anonymous4:10 PM

    Janice and anyone that is interested in the American Pillar arborvitae, please contact Mavis Houser through the company website at http://home.comcast.net/~americanpillar/ or at 770-592-8414. Thanks

  4. Hi, I need 60 of these to create privacy in my backyard, where space is limited. I was, and am, prepared to buy them straight from the American Pillar Nursery, as I’m unaware of a nursery anywhere near Portland, OR that carries them. However, after reading through the comments on another forum I am curious about ordering them from either Hirt’s or Garden Harvest Supply, if they will ship them to Portland, OR. I guess my only reservation/question, having no experience with such things, is how can I be sure that the trees I order from Hirt’s or Garden Harvest Supply will be actual American Pillars, from Houser? It's important to me because I don't have the space to plant trees that will have a mature spread of more than 4 feet. Garden Harvest Supply lists the mature spread as 5-7 feet, but the American Pillar website is pretty clear that the spread is 3-4 feet. Hirt's doesn't mention the spread. So I'm wondering if either of them sell the actual American Pillar and how I would be able to tell, preferably before buying. If any of you can offer a newbie some insight here, I would much appreciate it.

  5. I just bought 30 of these for my backyard from American Pillar Nursury. This seems to be the tree I've always wanted.

  6. Anonymous9:53 PM

    Good for him. After researching arbs for 300ft of privacy screen I understand how important his creation is. Now if someone can build off his work and create a variety that stays under 18ft or so but grows as quickly, the market would be covered and much more affordable. Emerald greens and north poles are good for thin, smaller arbs but they don't grow very quickly which means you need to pay more for mature plants and the cost of digging and installing them. I would have loved to have known about this variety a year ago.


Thank you for your comments.

Please know that I delete spam and SEO back-links and will call you out as a spammer if you attempt to use this blog to promote your website, business or whatever else you are selling. Please respect this blog.