Virtue in versatility

A garden is like a school '“ among all the chaos there needs to be some sort of regulation, some permanence on which all things hang; not ruled with a rod of iron but strong enough to provide reliability and constancy.

SMALL WONDER: Juniperus squamata Blue Star.

Some plants deliver their goods in a rush – blossom on fruit trees, flowers on climbers or big blooms on rhododendrons – but evergreens are the constant. It is this dependability that makes them a key building block in the design process.

And 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 most situations – in rock gardens, borders, and as specimen plants.

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Juniperus squamata is popular in gardens because it can be a prostrate shrub, a spreading bush or a small upright tree. Many of these are ‘glaucus’ or blue-grey. Look out for ‘Blue Star’, a compact bush that tends to reach maximum dimensions of 40cm in height. ‘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 just two metres.

‘Meyeri’ is different again, a larger shrub with arching branches and glaucus foliage; it reaches a height of between four and 10 metres and a width of up to eight metres.

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. Junipers will even thrive in quite hostile situations, such as hot, sunny sites or cold wet ones. Good drainage is a help. And very little pruning, if any, is required.

So, a family worthy of straight As.