This is the month to add colour and texture to the newly ‘naked’ garden with these colourful conifer choices. This month we are focusing on varieties of Juniperus, Each is compact and easily managed, guaranteed to surprise with their colour effects and all are tough. Conifers like these really will look after themselves and bring beauty in every season.
Have you ever stopped to consider what evergreens like Juniperus deliver? Here are some reasons why no one should overlook this fantastic category of shrubs and trees.
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 rhodos – 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, they really are a reference point with which to co-ordinate all other elements.
Evergreens offer instant impact – they will deliver from day one. On air quality too, evergreens are strongly beneficial. 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 the evergreens, Juniperus is an outstanding genus. With a range of between 50 and 60 species that 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 foliage that adds a further interesting dimension. Look out for ‘Blue Star’, a compact bush that tends to reach maximum dimensions of 40cm in height and 1m in width. ‘Holger’ has wonderful foliage effects, the new growth being sulphur yellow which contrasts with the steel-blue of the older leaves. Height and spread of approximately 2m. ‘Meyeri’ is different again, 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’, which reaches a maximum height of 80cm and is ideal for growing in a trough or pot. ‘Hibernica’ is similar, in that it is 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. Low-growing shrubs like ‘Grey Owl’ can even form the support for climbers such as perennial peas or delicate clematis.
Junipers are tolerant of many conditions and will 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.
This is the time for hearth and home. Draw the curtains and cosy-in for the evening. Re-discover the pleasures of reading this year as the nights draw in, or use the time to study your gardening books and think about your plans for spring. Of course, armchair time is even more enjoyable when you have had an active day, so be sure to make the most of the fine days for sorting out around the garden.
There are plenty of plants which can keep the garden looking fabulous at this time of year. Characterful conifers with attractive foliage of a surprising range of colours – you’ll find golds and yellows, all shades of green and crisp wintery blues. Lots to choose from to keep year round interest going in your garden.