Let relationship with junipers grow

Much to my chagrin, but I’m sure to the delight of vacationers, the heat arrived this past month and with it, the start of my hand-watering regime.

Much to my chagrin, but I’m sure to the delight of vacationers, the heat arrived this past month and with it, the start of my hand-watering regime.

A visit to each plant in the garden reminded me that all loving relationships take effort, whether it’s people, puppies or plants.

An attitude of “wanting to” rather than “having to” learn the needs of the other, will provide a sound basis for all types of relationships to nurture each other and grow.

Until recently I believed, with the exception of drought tolerant plants such as lavender or Russian sage, I needed to keep things watered, watered, watered… but the demise of my beautiful Medora juniper and further research, has taught me otherwise.

The foliage started turning brown and then ash coloured so rather than further investigate its needs to learn junipers prefer drier soil I just assumed it needed more water. I had not put enough effort into the relationship. For the next two seasons I simply poured more water on. As it turns out, the juniper never improved because of a blight I allowed to progress past the point of salvation. The extra water didn’t help; I could have saved it by removing the infected branches at the beginning of the infection. I now know more about the needs of this conifer allowing our “relationship” to grow.

Junipers are among the most versatile groups of conifers for the garden, with 60 or more species that offer a variety of shapes, forms and colours (green, blue, silver and yellow) to suit any climate. There are columnar, semi-prostrate and prostrate forms. Most prefer sunny positions with good drainage but there are a few that will tolerate light shade and wetter conditions. They are zone hardy in the West Kootenays and ideal for our hot summers.

The prostrate varieties (juniperus horizontalis) I most often recommend are the blue “Wiltoni” or “Blue Chip” and the golden-yellow “Motherlode”.  These very attractive, ground-hugging cultivars are perfect for ground covers, banks, slopes and to hang over walls.

All benefit from pruning to increase density and restrict size. A new introduction and particular favourite of mine is the “Lime Glow” which grows 12 – 18 inches high and 24 – 36 inches wide; perfect for small landscapes. My favourite semi-prostrate juniper is the “Gold Coast” (juniperus x pfitzeriana) because it stays fairly compact (3 feet tall x 4 feet wide) and doesn’t end up too wild looking. Its bright yellow foliage holds colour in sunny situations well into winter.

The beautiful “Medora” with its silver-blue foliage, is the smallest of the columnar variety of Rocky Mountain junipers (juniperus scopulorum) growing 10 feet tall by 3 feet wide. The”Moonglow” and “Gray Gleam” are a bit bigger but equally lovely.

Patty Siddall operates a local garden business and shares this space with business partners Margaret Devantier and Betty Drover every other Friday. Siddall can be contacted at 250-364-1005.