P80519KOh, the stigma of juniper never gets old! No matter how many cool new cultivars get introduced, and how many specie get rediscovered, they are still though of as those nastily prickly ‘tams’ that were too common in the 1950s. Even some of us who really like junipers dislike tams, not only because they share their stigma with all other members of the genus, but also because they really are nasty and prickly, and not as useful as their overuse would suggest. Are they deep ground cover or shallow shrubbery? They might work for a few years, or maybe many years, but they eventually crash into each other or other plants and pile up into a dense thicket that can not be pruned without being deprived of all dignity.

In the neighborhood where I primarily work, we have a ‘do not plant’ list. Such lists typically cite specie that are notoriously invasive, such as pampas grass, blue gum eucalyptus, Acacia dealbata and English ivy. In regions where fire is a concern, specie that are notoriously combustible, such as cedar, cypress, rosemary and manzanita, are also cited. Almost all of the specie on our list are there for good reason. I mean, we can figure out why they are undesirable in the neighborhood. Then there is juniper. No specie are cited; just the entire genus. Juniper.

Perhaps the eastern red cedar, Juniperus virginiana, is too likely to become an invasive exotic here, so the entire species was condemned. Perhaps junipers in abundance are just too combustible. The ‘do not plant’ list provides no explanation.

There are a few mature junipers in the landscapes that were installed before the list was compiled. A hedge of such junipers was recently removed because it was in the construction zone of buildings being renovated. It was no loss really. They were quite disfigured after decades of reliable service. However, at one end of the hedge, there were two much younger junipers that were added relatively recently to replace one that had been removed to facilitate access to subterranean utilities. They might have been added after the ‘do not plant list’ was compiled. No one really remembers. The list was compiled a few years ago, but distributed only recently.

Before the landscape was demolished, we took a few plants that could be dug up, and canned them back at the nursery for use elsewhere in other landscaped areas. We could not just leave the two small junipers to die. We dug and canned them too. Now they are back in the nursery, with no hope of finding a home back in the landscape from which they came. They happen to be nice specimens, and are certainly NOT tams. No one remembers what species or cultivar they are. They happened to match the original hedge remarkably well, which is rather impressive considering how modern cultivars have replaced most older cultivars.

I happen to have three canned junipers already. They are North American natives. Two are eastern red cedar, Juniperus virginiana, with two very distinct personalities. The other is the Juniperus communis ‘Compressa’, which is a compact cultivar and the closest I could get to the common juniper. Apparently, the common juniper is not so common in the natural form. I already do not know what to do with these three, although the common juniper can stay canned indefinitely.

These other two displaced junipers will probably go into a landscape pretty soon, while they are not yet root-bound. They just can not go any place close to where they came from.

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12 thoughts on “Jumping Juniper!

  1. In the area where I live (Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay) Eastern red cedars used to be the Christmas tree of choice. Before the Chesapeake Bay bridge was built in the early 1950’s the Eastern Shore was quite isolated so people didn’t have access to Christmas trees the way they do now. Old timers have told me how much they hated the prickles on those trees. I brought small ones from the place we called home for 40 years and they are thriving in my yard. If they get too big, I’ll cut them down and start over again.

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    1. Where I was in Oklahoma, the neighbors really dislike them because they were so prolific in rangeland, and cattle did not eat them. Apparently, the lack of fire is disruptive to the ecology there. I really like them because they remind me of Oklahoma, and they are just so ‘Eastern’.

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    1. I do not think that it is a ground cover type. Although I do not know, the growth seems to match that of the old pfitzers. It is hard to say, and it could be Parsons, just because of when it was added.

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  2. As always, the right plant in the right place. Around here there are hectares and hectares of land, likely grazing fields in decades past, where the only sizeable thing growing are Junipers. I’m told this is because of the shallow, dry, limestoney soil.

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    1. Our redwood forests are so dense with the tallest trees in the world. It is hard to imagine anything becoming invasive with such competition; but some things move in. While in Oklahoma and Northern Texas, the junipers really did seem to be more prolific than I was expecting. In pictures, the area seemed to be more open, with sporadic junipers. Now there are juniper forests in places. I can see why some people dislike them.

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  3. As you may remember, we removed an Eastern Red Cedar from our yard shortly after moving in. The main problem was that this tree made it painful for my wife to walk barefoot in the garden, something she really likes to do. I regret the removal now, at least a little bit, because I learned that this tree is really great for birds.

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  4. I didn’t know there are juniper cultivars! I thought it was the same plant I saw everywhere. I think I have some in the backyard that I’ve never paid any attention to because, well, you know, they’re juniper. I’m sure someone planted them years ago for ground cover and they’ve been ignored ever since.

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    1. There are many cultivars, and quite a few specie. I have only seen the Californian specie in the wild around the Mojave Desert. The Eastern red cedar is almost never grown as a landscape plant, but there are a few garden cultivars of them in the East. The genus has been ignored for decades, but includes some nice ones.

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  5. You could see if someone wanted them for bonsai. Since they are already in cans/pots, someone with experience might want to turn them into bonsai. It would be a good use for them since they can’t go back into the landscape.

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    1. My Pa grows bonsai stock, and gets some of it from here, so there is certainly no shortage of it. It might be easier to find a home for the junipers in a landscape outside of the neighborhood than to find a bonsai artist who wants them. They are not exactly desirable types; although, as you know, bonsai artists can get very creative with specie and cultivars that the rest of us would not think of as appropriate.

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