Why I love them and why you should consider them for your Colorado Landscape!
By Chris Leinster - April 21, 2022
When I try to suggest to folks that Juniper Trees might be the ideal plant for their screening and privacy needs, I often get an adverse reaction. “I hate Juniper” is the standard retort, and I get it. You’re probably thinking about the old-fashioned Pfitzer Juniper that your grandmother had growing along her foundation. Every summer she’s ask you to trim them down, and you’d dutifully get out the loppers and get to work. After much struggle, you’d be covered in pokes and small cuts from the sharp needles and your skin would break out into a rash from the astringent toxins within the plant. After all that effort, the result likely produced a plant that looked like you pulled it out of a dumpster, raggedy and half-dead. It’s understandable that you might cringe at the thought of adding Juniper Trees to your landscape.
Botanists, plant propagators, and nurserymen have been tinkering and cross-hybridizing these plants for generations, and the result is a remarkable collection of stately and finely textured plants appropriate for most landscape applications. The Juniper family consists of a wide array of cultivars encompassing every shape imaginable, from low-lying groundcovers to small foundation plants, to formidable trees! Most of the tree form varieties are hybridized derivations of our own Colorado native Rocky Mountain Juniper.
Look around the next time you attend a concert at Red Rocks. Most of the trees you see clinging to the rocks and eking out an existence in this dry, harsh environment are Rocky Mountain Juniper. I encounter them along hikes around the Front Range, sometimes up to tree line, but always on barren, south-facing slopes. In more extreme conditions these ruggedly handsome ramparts take on krummholz characteristics, becoming gnarled and twisted in the relentless wind. They are so resilient they even grow among the cactus in the deserts of Utah and New Mexico! Have a look at my introduction to Juniper Trees… https://youtu.be/x1xI3dT1lxU
This is precisely what makes them appropriate for Colorado landscapes. Colorado is brutal on trees, and almost none of what we like to grow here would survive more than a decade without supplemental water and fertilization. Our intense sunshine, dry air, and wild temperature swings are a death sentence for most imported trees barring human pampering, but the Juniper trees we plant today will survive for hundreds of years if abandoned.
Builders are cramming homes ever closer together, and lots are shrinking to accommodate our exploding population. We desire to live close to the city, but not so close to our neighbors. If you need evergreen trees for privacy and screening but have limited space, there are Juniper trees ideal for your situation. Most spread 6-8’ wide at maturity, and reach heights of 15-20’.
‘Spearmint’ and ‘Woodward’ Juniper have a deep green color, while ‘Moonglow’ and Wichita Blue’ display vibrant blue foliage with a feathery texture. ‘Blue Arrow’ and ‘Blue Point’ fall somewhere in the middle, while ‘Skyrocket’ has a grey appearance. ‘Taylor’ Juniper form a tight column only 3’ wide, while ‘Trautman’ forms a stick only 12” wide! These trees are perfect for creating living fences for privacy, anchoring the foundation at the corner of the home, a bold accent in an English garden, or a Zen element in a Japanese garden.
Hopefully I’ve broken down your objections and you’re open to considering the utility of Juniper Trees. Maintaining them properly is the key to enjoying them for generations to come. If you know how to trim them and perhaps more importantly when to prune, you can keep your plants healthy and thriving for generations to come! Check back to see my next blog on Juniper maintenance.