Just Juniper

Blue Star & Gold Tip junipers in mixed border in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer http://agardenforall.com

Blue Star & Gold Tip junipers (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Jumpin’ Jupiter, by Jiminy . . . it’s Juniper, with upwards of 50 different species (although it feels more like a gazillion), an often overlooked shrub when gardens are being designed, and I’m not quite sure why.  They come in a phenomenal range of sizes, shapes and colors, are incredibly deer resistant (prickly little buggers) and will grow in a lot of unsavory conditions.  I wouldn’t be surprised if junipers could be used to revive toxic wastelands (well, perhaps a touch of exaggeration there).  At any rate, junipers are durable workhorses, preferring sunny locales, while tolerating drought, crummy soil, and complete neglect-absolutely no fertilizing or pampering required once established.

What I wasn’t exaggerating about is their incredible array of colors; with shades ranging from rich golden yellow, to frosty or earthy blue, to pale lime or bold emerald green.  And the sizes and forms!  There are dozens of ground cover or trailing choices, perfect for holding a steep sun drenched bank where nothing else will grow, for draping over a wall or along a pathway (many can handle some moderate tromping).  There are tall and slender forms, short and plump characters, and some that fall somewhere in-between.  Either way, there are sure to be a few that will become great bedfellows in your border. Here’s a few that I’ve grown over the last few decades;  simply plant and enjoy, no frills required:

Trailing Blue Star juniper in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer http://agardenforall.com

Trailing Blue Star juniper and weeping larch (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Blue Star Juniper (Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’) is an evergreen shrub that features dense silver blue foliage that is slightly prickly to the touch. Blue Star has a dependably spreading habit, but will also trail beautifully down a wall.  Maturing to about 2 feet tall and four feet wide, it takes many years to reach that width due to its slow growth rate. This is a good thing in my opinion, because you can use this shrub to fill in or underplant an area without it taking over.  Easily pruned back if it oversteps its bounds (wear gloves), Blue Star is indeed a highly underutilized star that can provide superb ground coverage with a complementary blue foliage for some of the most challenging situations. Juniperus Squamata ‘Blue Star’ thrives in sunny spots (but will tolerate a little shade) in zones 4-8.

Gold Tip juniper in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer http://agardenforall.com

Gold Tip juniper in mixed evergreen border (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Gold Tip Juniper (Juniperus chinensis pfitzeriana ‘Gold Tip’) possess a graceful spreading form over 4 feet high with potential for equal or greater spread over several years (give it room). Darker emerald green foliage is accented with bright gold tips on arching branches, of which the color intensifies in fall and winter. Excellent as a low maintenance evergreen, its somewhat horizontal growth provides superb contrast to other types of foliage, both deciduous and evergreen.  I have a purple smoke bush behind one, its round merlot foliage on erect stems stands out dramatically against the slightly weeping golden limbs of the gold tip juniper.  Incredibly easy to grow (and a perfect hiding place for nesting birds) in zones 4-9, prefers sun and is extremely drought tolerant.

Grey Owl juniper in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer http://agardenforall.com

Grey Owl juniper (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Grey Owl Juniper (Juniperus virginiana ‘Grey Owl’) is another strong, long lived shrub that is tolerant to just about any conditions. It has unusually finely textured foliage, soft to the touch, and the most incredible arching smoky grey branches.  New to my garden (in its third year), I have fallen in love with this shimmering shrub, capable of growing to 3 feet tall and 5 feet wide if unpruned. A perfect addition to any landscape looking for a shade of grey without a lot of tending, Grey Owl also offers another dimension when it turns a slightly purple-ish color in winter.  Zone tolerant from 4-9, Juniperus virginiana ‘Grey Owl’ works well at the front of the border happily co-mingling with low growing sedum, and I’ve seem images of it used as a hedge along a walkway, absolutely stunning!

Eastern Red Cedar with berries in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer http://agardenforall.com

Eastern Red Cedar with berries (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana) is a commonly recognized Eastern U.S. native and the “Mr. Big” of junipers, reaching over 20 feet wide and 60 feet tall at maturity.  Easily grown in average to moist, well-drained soils in full sun (zones 2-9), it also tolerates a wide range of growing conditions; from swamps to rocky hillsides. In fact, Juniperus virginiana is considered one of the most drought resistant conifers native to the eastern U. S.  The bark is quite showy on red cedar’s trunk, with reddish brown bark that sheds like strips of bacon, and its aromatic wood is commonly used for cedar chests.  Juniperus virginiana produces clusters of frosty blue berries that are attractive to overwintering birds, and equally beautiful in evergreen arrangements.

Consider taking a gander at the juniper gang next time you’re at a local nursery or garden center.  With choices capable of remaining petite border accents or growing into a 40 foot specimen, there is certain to be a juniper worthy of parking in your landscape, by Jiminy!

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