Here in Calgary, we love our junipers.
Well, it seems like it, anyway. Walk by nearly any commercial property in the city and there will be a juniper or, more likely, a long row of junipers in front of it. Plenty of homeowners use them, too. I’m not talking about the tall, upright varieties, either. (I’d be positively THRILLED to see more of those – many people plant cedars instead. Unfortunately, here in Chinook country, beautiful moisture-loving cedars often turn to brittle red sticks over a single winter).
No, I’m thinking about the spreading junipers, the ground covers. They’re everywhere! And while many people dismiss them as “unimaginative” and “boring,” there’s a reason why they’re so popular here. They’re practical. You can literally plant them and forget them – and I’m not just saying that. The mass grouping of junipers in front of my workplace is rarely watered other than by rainfall or snowmelt, and I doubt any of the shrubs has ever been pruned. Junipers are drought tolerant (once established), they can withstand our wacky temperature extremes, and they don’t mind all the road salt and the urban pollution. They like the sun but they can take a fair amount of shade as well. And, as for soil, most varieties don’t really care how fertile it is. Some prostrate types cling to the sides of mountains! They’re largely resistant to diseases – although you do have to watch out for various rusts. Deer and hares and most other pests won’t eat them, which is a bonus. You can get a wide range of varieties and colours from deep blue to golden yellow to bright green, which also means that you aren’t restricted to planting them en masse – they make great specimen plants as well! I’m extremely fond of the three ‘Blue Chip’ junipers (J. horizontalis) in my garden – their blue-green needles are beautifully textured, and they have a fabulous mounding habit. They perform like a dream, and I do absolutely nothing to encourage them. Yes, they’re certainly practical – and that’s a very, very good thing in my book!
Plus, spreading junipers look great – or, at least, I think they do! Especially with a nice, fluffy layer of snow to decorate them. (Unfortunately, I can’t claim to have taken these photos a month or two ago – we received another sprinkling of the white stuff yesterday and I shot these images this morning. To my delight, warm winds moved in this afternoon and ate most of the new snow).
I’m going to tentatively ID this collection of junipers as Juniperus sabina ‘Scandia’ – they are too tall to be ‘Calgary Carpet’ or ‘Buffalo’. If you have any other ideas of what they might be, I welcome them! 🙂
What types of ubiquitous “practical” plantings are popular where you live? Do you grow any of them yourself?