cutting back an arborvitae

My newly purchased house has two large (15') arborvitae trees in front of a small front porch. They are so large they block out any light in the front windows, and porch. A landscaper recommended removing them and replacing with some boxwood. The trees are healthy, and I hate to cut them down (not to mention the expense of hiring a landscaping company.) Is there any way I can cut these back significantly (almost by half)? Would it be ok to trim back a few feet a year? Or can these trees be "topped" all at once to look more like a shrub? What would be the best tool to use? Is it too late in the season to do anything this year?(I live in North Eastern U.S.) This is my first house so I'm totally new to this. Thank you so much for your help!
--
Lisa Leng


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On Wed, 23 Jun 2010 03:09:34 +0000, Lisa Leng

American arborvitae can be drastically pruned back and will recover but can take years and will never attain its proper form... it'll live but I doubt you will be happy with the result. I would remove them and plant new... I would suggest globe arborvitae, or choose a compact form juniper. There are literally hundreds of plantings that would be suitable but without seeing a picture of your house and what kind of space you have to work with it's difficult to suggest specifics. Give your house a face lift, young compact foundation plantings make an older house look newer. Often with older homes all the foundation plantings are also old and over grown, it would be wise to remove all and plant new... new plantings is one of the first improvements to make when moving into an existing home, plants need time to grow... new young shrubs are inexpensive, you only need invest a little labor.
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On Wed, 23 Jun 2010 03:09:34 +0000, Lisa Leng

All the pruned arborvitae I have seen do not look good at all, sometimes get worse the following years. Your landscaper is giving you very good advice.
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On 6/27/2010 11:29 AM, Phisherman wrote:

I have a large emerald arborvitae that my landscaper trims the width/girth of, though not the height, to keep it in bounds where it's hiding an unsightly meter on the front of my house. It's robustly healthy and full, even after having been sheared into a too narrow cone shape last year.
I think cutting the top a bit and shearing the width each year should be tried so as to preserve them if possible. If they get enough sun, new growth will sprout quickly anywhere they look thin or less filled out.
Susan
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Shearing is a lot different from topping. Most conifers respond positively to shearing but few react well to topping. There are many varieties of arborvitae, had the OP submitted a photo that would help immeasurably to advise. Topping most of an older tall variety would result in many years of looking at a stumpy bush... will likely slowly die from not being able to heal so large a wound, would lose strength and be prone to disease and insect attack. I would remove it and plant something more suitable for the space alloted.
http://www.evergreenplantnursery.com/Arborvitae-Thuja-s/1.htm
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On 6/27/2010 12:39 PM, brooklyn1 wrote:

I could be wrong, but the OP seemed to indicate a slow, gradual reduction in height. The shrubs could always be removed and dumped after gradual shortening and shearing if they died, and they might thrive. Why not take the time to find out?
As to wounds, I've seen ice and snow damage to large arborvitae branches and seen them bounce back with vitality (not mine, I brush it all off as fast as I can, lucky so far), so it's certainly within the realm of possiblities.
Susan
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On 6/27/2010 1:04 PM, Susan wrote:

This suggests that the OP could just go ahead and cut those babies hard:
http://www.aboutarborvitae.com/pruning_arborvitae.shtml
Other sites, too, discuss pruning, shearing and topping to keep neat arborvitae hedges, so it's not so deadly after all, I guess.
Susan
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Why waste many years hoping for what most likely won't be... a new arborvitae costs like $20. I wouldn't plant American arborvitae by an entryway anyway, they grow too large, are used primarily for screening... sometimes planted in groups for accent but require a very large space. But why make the same mistake, I'd plant something different, something with a more suitable growing habit, that would fit with sun exposure. Large specimens don't work as foundation plantings.
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On 6/27/2010 2:07 PM, brooklyn1 wrote:

I think it depends upon how large your foundation bed is and what your need is in terms of camouflage and balance, that's why I used the emerald one. Bought it mature to cover up the fact that a meter is hideously attached to the *front* of my home.
And from all I've now read, there's no harm in cutting them as much as one needs to, so they're perfectly well suited as long as one maintains them.
At the rate mine grows, years aren't necessary, at least not for an established plant.
Susan
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Phisherman wrote: ...

they'll recover from a lot of abuse if they don't get too dried out in the winter winds when their center is exposed.
we have a few that get munched on by the deer and i just go along and trim out the dead stuff left behind. they sprout new to fill in eventually if left alone.
but i do agree with the landscaper. they smell nice, but they grow too big for next to foundation planting.
songbird
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