Juniper bushes are the most despised landscaping plant in existence. I know this to be true, because 75% of the time that I talk with a homeowner or property owner about renovating their landscape, they say something like “those Junipers have GOT to go!”.
Why is this? I think there are a few main reasons, aside from the fact that they are prickly beasts that we have all tangled with a one point (either landing in one while playing as a kid, or getting that annoying rash on your arm while trimming them) :
1) They were simply overused in the past. People are just tired of them and want something unique and new. And since they live for ages and rarely die, they are often the only living survivors guarding the front doors of homes in any older neighborhood.
2) They were not planted with enough room to grow. Many of the varieties get quite large after say, 20 years, and quickly outgrow the planting bed. Because they grow too large for their setting they require excessive pruning to keep them at a manageable size. This pruning then exposes all of the dead old growth inside the base of the plant- ugly!
3) The aforementioned prickliness. And good luck getting the baseball you were tossing around out of the center of that green monster.
Given these negatives, why then should you consider using Juniper plants in your landscape?
1) They require little water and are very well adapted to the western and southwestern United States. That is why in places like Eastern Colorado (where few woody plants survive, and water is a scarce resource) they are used by landowners and farmers for windbreaks. They are an excellent Xeriscape plant.
2) They are long-lived plants. In some places native specimens have lived for several hundred years in the wild.
3) Given an appropriate amount of space, they require almost no maintenance.
4) They are evergreen, so they provide good winter interest. They can be used to add texture and scale to a landscape, and make terrific visual screens, hedges, and windbreaks.
5) There are many forms and colors available that offer endless design possibilities, ranging from narrow upright forms to low mat-forming spreading varieties, and everything in between. Colors can range from dark green, to blue-gray, to bright green, to yellow green, with some varieties changing to purplish-red shades in the winter months.
So, the next time you decide to tear out those old Juniper shrubs, consider re-introducing them into your new landscape design to enjoy all of the benefits these versatile plants have to offer.
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