Plants: Junipers are ideal for this use
As ground cover plants, junipers
can be ideal, creating an effective patchwork of varying
textures and colours across the ground. However this effectiveness
as groundcover does depend upon variety, soil conditions,
competing weeds and so on. When planning to use junipers
as ground cover plants it is important to first clear
the ground of annual and perennial weeds. Compared to
some plants, junipers may not be particularly fast-growing,
especially during the first two years after planting.
During this time it is important to keep bare soil clear
of weeds. Suitable annual plants or short-term planting
can be used to feel the spaces until the junipers have
put on sufficient growth.
There is a particular method
which can be used when planting junipers into rough grass,
particularly in the wilder garden or larger space. This
method of introducing ground cover plants depends upon
the soil being generally of good quality and free-draining.
this method will not work in heavy clay soil. It is also
rather controversial amongst gardening purists, who would
no doubt maintain that such ' 'cheats' will not lead to
long-term success. However a number of people have used
this method of planting ground cover successfully.
The method is this: rather
than thing over the whole area in the usual way, the turf
is only removed where the junipers are to be individually
planted. A decent-sized planting hole should be dug and
the juniper planted as usual. The area between the planted
junipers which will still be covered in grass, can then
be covered with an artificial mulching material of some
kind, topped with a natural mulch such as leafmould, chopped
bark, garden compost and so on. The artificial mulching
material used to cover the ground could be black plastic
or landscaping geotextile fabric. For a more organic alternative
use something that will rot down, such as used corrugated
cardboard boxes or newspapers laid thickly. In the latter
case be sure to soak the cardboard wallpaper thoroughly
before use. If a sufficient layer of natural mulch is
then laid on top of the cardboard or paper the result
is very good. Once the paper or cardboard has rotted the
grass will be long dead and not grow through.
Which varieties of Juniper
should be used as groundcover?
Clearly varieties which have
thick foliage will work best, as those with thinner foliage
may allow weed growth to come through. One of the oldest
and best-known varieties of juniper for ground cover is
Juniperus sabina 'Tamariscifolia'. Although this variety
does make successful groundcover in time, it is rather
slow growing than some other varieties. However the trade-off
is that some of the fast-growing Juniperus varieties,
particularly those in the Juniperus x media category
do not just grow horizontally but also vertically, resulting
in rather higher groundcover than may be required.
Varieties in the Juniperus x media category which do make excellent but rather
higher ground cover include Juniperus x media 'Pfitzeriana
Compacta', Juniperus x media 'Pfitzeriana Glauca'
and Juniperus x media 'Pfitzeriana Aurea'. These all
have vigorous juvenile and adult foliage in green, grey
or gold, and will eventually reach 10 feet or more wide
by half that high.
For ground-hugging purposes
the Juniperus horizontalis cultivars are often recommended,
however their foliage may not grow thick enough to prevent
weeds coming through. Better are some of the spreading
Juniperus communis cultivars, such as 'Repanda', 'Hornibrookii'
and 'Depressa Aurea'.
The low-growing Juniperus
squamata varieties are also suitable as ground cover plants.
The best of these for this purpose is probably 'Blue Carpet'.
This variety can be cut back to keep it growing thickly.
Once it gets going it is very vigorous.
Other junipers suitable as
ground cover plants include Juniperus virginiana 'Grey
Owl' (Grey), Juniperus communis 'Depressed Star' (Green)
and Juniperus x media 'Blue Cloud' (blue-grey).
Note: The information on this
page is based on personal experience of growing junipers
in England, and no guarantees of success or otherwise can
be given if you follow this advice. Your experiences, climate
and garden situation may be different, and you are responsible
for your own successes or failures.
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