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Avant Yard: Junipers, part 2

1. They are evergreen. Any tough evergreen makes an excellent foundation plant for year-round color. Very important for giving your garden structure, visual interest, and shelter for wildlife. In the depths of winter when deciduous trees and shrubs are bare, junipers still look great. In the midst of summer when lawns are yellow and wilting from the heat, junipers still look great, too. Which leads me to...

2. They are super-tough. Think of them as the armadillos of the plant world. While they will not do well with regular manhandling, they can handle a bit more use and abuse than many plants. Junipers are wind and drought-tolerant and they love the sun, making them perfect for difficult spots where nothing else will grow.

3. The low-growing varieties make an excellent lawn alternative. Not prickly enough to prick your fingers, but inhospitable enough to keep the kids and dogs from trampling it. Joy to the world: no mowing required. Save your precious lawn for areas you frequent a lot or can at least see from the house.

4. They are very slow-growing. Yes, that's a good thing. Here's why: if you can just be patient and wait until they fill in, junipers will reward you with continued snail's-pace growth... meaning you'll likely never have to prune to rein them in. Unlike, say, more aggressively-growing groundcovers like ivy. (For more on pruning, see below.)

5. They provide excellent contrast. Juniper's shaggy appearance and pointy needles contrast beautifully with just about everything else going. The fact that they come in quite an impressive array of colors (from golden, to bright green, to gray or blue-green) helps, too.

6. The berries! See if you can use any of these interesting facts at parties:

7. They come in an impressive number of varieties. There are some fifty species of juniper, plus hundreds of different cultivars available. Meaning you can almost certainly find the color, shape, or size of plant you want. In addition to their increasingly common use as groundcovers, junipers can be grown as foundation shrubs, specimen plants, and hedges.

8. Great wildlife value. One final reason to love juniper for those in woodsey areas: deer won't eat them! However, junipers are fabulous sources of shelter for all kinds of other animals, from birds to bugs and snakes. Actually, anytime you plant anything new in your garden (um, excluding invasive species!) you are doing good for the environment.

My Craigslist juniper(click thumbnails to view gallery)

Low-maintenance = beautifulJuniper berries...Dig cautiouslyLeverage timeSome roots may be sacrificed



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