In its native habitat in the north-east of North America, the red cedar typically grows on mires and at the edges of cliffs, where competition from other species is minimal. The species is slow-growing but durable; as many as 1650 annual rings have been counted on a felled tree.
Arborvitae, or the tree of life, as it was named by European settlers, was among the first species to be brought to Europe from America. In the 1500s it was thought to have medicinal properties. It quickly achieved popularity as a garden and landscape species, and hundreds of named varieties have been produced of varied habit and colour.
Hardy throughout Finland, arborvitae is widely used in hedges and individually. In modern gardens it seems to be used mainly in various mutant forms, dense and slow-growing, pillar, spherical or conical in habit.
The species has been grown at Mustila since the 1930s, cuttings from the 2-hectare plantation providing florists with winter greenery for wreaths and bouquets.