Blue Star Juniper

Juniperus squamata 'Blue Star'

The Blue Star Juniper is one of the most popular compact or small bush junipers for garden plantings everywhere in the temperate world, truly a 'star' of a plant.

'Blue Star' has a bushy, loosely-dome-shaped form, with some projecting shoots. Sometimes it is denser and more uniform than in the illustration here.

The Blue Star juniper has prickly 'juvenile'-type foliage of a silvery-blue colour. It is usually dense and well-furnished. The growth rate is fairly slow, a plant making up to 3 feet (1 metre) across in ten years, and a little less high.

The Blue Star Juniper originated as a 'sport' on a bush of the older Juniperus squamata variety 'Meyeri' and quickly became a real star of the conifer world upon its release in the 1970's. Unlike 'Meyeri', 'Blue Star' does not shed its lower leaves to leave bare patches, and it is much dwarfer ('Meyeri' can grow three times as high in the same space of time).

Apart from with the cultivar 'Meyeri' the same kind of silvery-blue prickly foliage may be found in the 'Blue Star'-like but vigorously spreading groundcover form Juniperus squamata 'Blue Carpet'. A similar cultivar with angled main branches that weep at the ends to form curving 'legs' has been named 'Blue Spider', and more vigorous 'squarer' forms with horizontal growth in tiers may be found in 'Blue Swede' and 'Hunnetorp' (some claim these last two cultivars as synonymous forms, but with us 'Hunnetorp' is less sideways spreading).

Growing Conditions

In general the Blue Star juniper should be grown in free-draining soil, and does fairly well in poor or impoverished soils. It will not tolerate boggy or water-logged conditions. Blue Star will grow in either alkaline or acidic soils. It needs an open, sunny aspect away from the floppy foliage of large herbaceous plants or large shrubs.

Use in the Garden

Because of its slow speed of growth and striking appearance, the Blue Star juniper mixes well with alpines and heathers. It also looks good in gravel gardens and close to the edge of paving. Red or yellow brick would be an effective contrast with it, as are yellow-leaved forms of winter flowering heather, Erica carnea, such as 'Foxhollow', 'Altadena' and the like. A single specimen of 'Blue Star', or even a scattered group would look stunning with these yellow-foliaged heathers growing around and between them.

Other alternatives for a similar effect:

Cultivars with similar foliage but very different growth habits have been discussed above. For a compact, bushy plant of slow growth Juniperus communis 'Berkshire' (named after the Berkshire Mountains in the USA and not the English county - although these mountains themselves were most likely named after the English county!) could be considered. This cultivar is silvery-green/grey, with bronze or mauve tints in the winter. It is slower growing than Blue Star and perhaps more suitable amongst select alpines or in a trough.

Various dwarf spruces would give a loosely similar effect to 'Blue Star' in the garden, at least from a distance. Picea sitchensis 'Papoose', originating from Canada, is a mound of spiky silvery-green foliage, wonderful in the springtime in particular. More blue is Picea pungens 'Globosa Nana'.

Using Junipers in Your Garden
How to use junipers in a garden - avoid 'design mistakes' but use these striking plants to their full advantage.

How to grow Junipers in your garden
How to grow junipers in your garden - their cultivation requirements.

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