Using Junipers in the Garden - Using Junipers in the Garden

Using Junipers in the garden is usually a matter of personal taste, but on this page I offer some suggestions for effective garden use of junipers to get the best out of these striking and exciting plants.

In England I have used junipers successfully in various planting schemes, gardens and landscaping situations, but you should be able to adapt my methods to suit whichever country you live in. Below are some different approaches to using junipers, but first a plea about how not to use them.

How not to use junipers in your garden

In England at least there is a commonly seen arrangement involving junipers that appears in numerous front gardens in particular. This consists of one, two or three upright conifers (usually Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Ellwoodii' or 'Fletcheri' or a golden lawson variety) together with one, two or three semi-prostrate junipers (often Juniperus X media 'Pfitzeriana Aurea') growing around the bases of the upright conifers. (See the example pictured left).

While there is nothing wrong as such with this 'look' it does tend to be repeated almost everywhere ad nauseum, and in my opinion it is better to do something new and different. This arrangement also has no obvious connection with any style of garden, or design purpose; it is simply something that arose through the almost-chance planting or grouping together of the most commonly available conifer varieties in nurseries of the 1950s, '60s and '70s. Once seen in a few places in those early days (and presumably admired then as something 'new') it was copied by many home owners who knew no other way to design a conifer group or conifer-featured garden.

Note that I am not decrying the conifer varieties used in this arrangement, only the arrangement itself.

Right: One way to use junipers effectively - Junipers growing with heathers and alpines in a modern upland or hill country garden designed by the author of this site (the grass could be removed though!)


Using Junipers in an upland wild garden

You do not need to live in the hills or mountains of the Peak District, Dartmoor, or the Rocky Mountains for that matter, but if you do, so much the better. A garden of this kind can be rocky and wet in climate (such as gardens of the English Lake District, where Juniperous communis grows wild amongst the ferns and rocks) or rocky and dry (such as the gardens of New Mexico). If you can make use of local junipers and other plants you will aid the natural effect considerably, blurring your garden landscape into the wilds beyond (or on the other side of the next block).

Try to plant 'wild' plants or their relatives that associate well with junipers, such as heather (Erica and Calluna), phylodoce, Gaultheria, Pernettya, dwarf rhododendrons, Vaccinium, ferns and a whole range of creeping, herbaceous and shrubby alpine plants. Creeping thymes in particular associate well with junipers, as do sedums. Large rocks strategically placed can be very effective in this kind of garden, as can old logs for a more 'woodlandy' feel.

Juniperus sabina 'Tamariscifolia' and similar Juniperus sabina cultivars such as 'Rockery Gem', 'Broadmoor', and 'Blue Danube' have been selected from the wild in southern Russia and nearby countries where they grow naturally in rocky and mountainous situations. In general lower growing plants (NOT upright junipers) occur naturally in mountain country.

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Using Junipers by the Ocean: seaside gardens

Again, it is not necessary to live by the sea to create an effective garden with a seaside flavour, but it does lend authenticity and unity to the project. Wide use of suitable gravel to match the shingle of the shore, rounded stones and boulders, as well as old straight timbers to simulate breakwaters and wrecked ships timbers give a good effect. So do water-worn branches and pieces of driftwood.

As with an upland garden, it is important to observe the plants and habitat of a real seashore in order to get this kind of garden right. Make use of seaside plants amongst the junipers, such as sea kale, horned poppy, eryingium (sea holly), as well as suitable alpines and even herbs. Adapt your choice of plants to your climate and soil. Use Juniperus conferta varieties extensively, as this grows wild on seashores in Japan.

Junipers and succulents in a seaside garden
in East Anglia that I designed.

Junipers and grasses in a contemporary garden.

Using Junipers in 'Contemporary Gardens'

Contemporary gardens often use minimalist planting and formal design. Their origins lie in creating spaces that complement modernist buldings. In a garden of this kind 'fussiness' is to avoided; simplicity of layout and use of contemporary landscaping materials and 'fashionable plants' such as ornamental grasses and Phormium tenax (right), is to be encouraged. Do not attempt this kind of garden unless your house or apartment lends itself to the design in some way, unless you desire to create a clashing effect that will forever be an eye-sore.

Ground-hugging junipers in the contemporary garden can be very effective alongside paving of different textures and shades of colour, or beside steps. The Green Mound Juniper, Juniperus procumbens 'Nana' looks particularly fine in this situation, as do Juniperus conferta varieties.


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Japanese blue Iris
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Upright junipers can be used to create 'punctuation marks' in the flow of a garden of this kind. Use junipers such as Juniperus chinensis 'Stricta', Juniperus scopulorum 'Skyrocket', Juniperus communis 'Hibernica' (see image top right of this page), Juniperus chinensis 'Monarch', or for a golden upright form, Juniperus chinensis 'Aurea'. But be aware that these upright forms have a powerful effect upon the eye, stopping its movement across a design, and potentially creating a 'jarring' effect unless used wisely. Do NOT dot then here and there; rather use them to arrest the eye for some purpose, such as to direct the attention to a feature of some kind. Alternatively, and to lessen the 'jarring' effect, plant them as a group.

In steel or metal-effect containers silver-blue junipers can be very striking, for example the neat upright form of Juniperus chinensis 'Stricta' or Juniperus scopulorum 'Skyrocket'. Other possibilities are Juniperus squamata 'Blue Star' for its intensely silver-blue foliage - plant this one in a wider or box-shaped metal container. To complement or bring out the blue colour of such junipers plant them near to blue-flowered plants such as the blue iris illustrated left.

With Bamboos

Due to their feathery informal nature, bamboos can associate well with junipers in some situations. At all times the ultimate size of the bamboos being used and their tendency to spread and droop sideways should be born in mind, for foliage of any kind lying on juniper foliage will usually result in brown patches.

However, used as a backdrop, or with a few dwarf bamboos here and there amogst junipers, the effect can be very good indeed in a contemporary garden or elsewhere, the flimsier foliage of the bamboo lightening and relieving the more solid, heavier appearance of some junipers.

Mulched with gravel and a few selected cobbles or round stones such an arrangement can be used in a seaside garden and also verges on the effects used in some Japanese gardens.

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Using junipers in formal gardens

Formal gardens are gardens that use hard landscaping and design in straight lines, squares, rectangles and other geometric shapes. They do not aspire to or pretend to be 'natural' or 'wild' arrangements but are usually designed to compliment the lines of a building, or even to reflect a philosophical idea.

There are many types of formal gardens, and at one end of the scale they even merge into cottage gardens, where the straight lines of paths and rustic archways are softened by rather chaotic planting. The occasional large juniper probably looks best in this kind of garden, such as Juniperus chinensis 'Pyramidalis', or Juniperouus scopulorum 'Blue Moon'; while a formal effect can be achieved in troughs and gravel with the Noah's Ark Juniper, Juniperous communis 'compressa'.


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Juniper Resources and where to buy:

Bonsai Boy of NY
Very large supplier of bonsai trees and equipment in USA, with many juniper bonsai trees available.

Juniper Trees. com
Welcome to, your Number One Source of information about Junipers and where to buy these beautiful plants for your garden. We provide plant and growing information for the most popular garden Junipers as well as information about Junipers as bonsai trees and herbal products made from Juniper berries. Visit us now for everything Juniper!

Trees Under $30
Bonsai trees, including junipers, under $30 from Bonsai Boy of New York.

Click here to give a great gift - a tree!
Tree gifts and memorial tree planting from TreeGivers.

How to grow Junipers
How to grow junipers - cultivation of junipers in the open and in containers.

Juniper Resources and Links
Good juniper resources and links.

Link to this site
Add an extra resource about junipers for your visitors.

Note: The information on this page is based on personal experience and preference in growing junipers in England, and no guarantees of success or otherwise can be given if you follow this advice. Your experiences, climate, country and garden situation may be different, and you are responsible for your own successful planting schemes or failed ones.

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