Every garden needs structure, year round. Some plants deliver their goods in a rush – blossom on fruit trees, flowers on climbers or big blooms on rhododendrons – but evergreens are constant.
They quietly deliver the goods, no matter the season. It is this dependability that makes them a key building block in the design process.
Evergreens offer instant impact – they will deliver from day one. On air quality too, evergreens earn plenty of brownie points. They capture harmful particulates that adhere to the needles and eventually fall to the ground. They may then be washed away down drains and sewers or come into contact with soil where micro-organisms can detoxify particulates.
Of all the evergreens, Juniperus is an outstanding genus. With a range of between 50 and 60 species which includes prostrate shrubs to tall trees, there is a juniper for every situation, in rock gardens, borders, and as specimen plants.
Juniperus squamata is popular in gardens because it can be either a prostrate shrub, a spreading bush or a small upright tree (depending on variety).
Many of these have gorgeous ‘glaucus’ or blue-grey tinge. Look out for ‘Blue Star’, a compact bush that tends to reach maximum dimensions of 40cm in height and just1m in width.
‘Holger’ has wonderful foliage effects, the new growth being sulphur yellow, which contrasts with the steel-blue of the older leaves. It has a height and spread of approximately 2m.
‘Meyeri’ is a larger shrub with arching branches and glaucus foliage; it reaches a height of between 4 and 10 metres and a width of up to 8m.
The common juniper (Juniper communis) presents some flexible choices – for example, ‘Compressa’ reaches a maximum height of just 80cm and is ideal for growing in a trough or pot.
‘Hibernica’ is similar – another columnar-shaped shrub, but bigger and faster growing than ‘Compressa’, reaching a maximum height of 3-5m.
‘Grey Owl’ is a low, spreading cultivar of Juniperus virginiana that is superb as a ground-cover plant and will serve as a wonderful contrast with the seasonal colours of, for example, Cornus sanguinea ‘Winter Flame’.
Junipers combine well with other small conifers, heaths and heathers in a range of garden design styles and are tolerant of most conditions.
They will even thrive in quite hostile situations, such as hot, sunny sites or cold wet ones. Good drainage is certainly a help. Very little pruning, if any, is required.