Junipers (Juniperus sp.) are the most commonly used woody plants in the West, according to the "Sunset Western Garden Book." These scale-leaved conifers are useful in Eastern landscapes as well, and many gardeners turn to the adaptable juniper trees, and their wide variety of forms, to solve landscape problems. The juniper family varies from the 6-inch-tall Calgary Carpet ground cover to the 60-foot alligator juniper (J. deppeana pachyphlaea), a wild-looking juniper with checkered bark resembling an alligator's skin. These tall juniper trees make fine windbreaks or screens. Not all juniper trees are the same, however, so choose the right juniper for the job.
Tolleson's Blue Weeping
Tolleson's Blue Weeping (J. scopulorum) is a dramatic accent plant. The foliage is an eye-catching blue-green, as its name suggests, and the branches arch outward over attractively trailing foliage. Like a small weeping willow, Tolleson's Blue Weeping makes an elegant landscape statement. It is also suitable as an evergreen privacy screen. The weeping form is graceful and elegant as the tree matures, but may seem awkward in young trees. Nurseries also sell an emerald variety as Tolleson's Green Weeping. Tolleson's Blue Weeping grows to an average of 20 feet tall and may branch as wide as 10 feet. It has a moderate growth rate, prefers well-drained soils and is hardy in USDA zones 4 to 9.
Eastern Red Cedar
Eastern red cedar (J. virginiana) turns a red-tinted brown in winter and is a deep, rich green in summer. This cold-hardy, prickly tree grows to 50 feet tall and the largest specimens are 30 feet wide. Eastern red cedar has a pyramidal shape when young before opening up at maturity. Its large size makes this juniper a good choice for windbreaks, and the berries, foliage and density provide food and cover for a wide range of wildlife. Eastern red cedar grows best in moist soils but will survive periods of drought and alkaline soil. It is hardy to USDA zone 2.
Smaller than the Eastern red cedar, the Utah juniper (J. osteosperma or J. utahensis) grows to 30 feet tall and has a rounded, coarse and shrub-like crown when mature. This slow-growing, high-desert native can live for over 600 years and has a wide, deep root system. It is not fazed by highly alkaline soils. When young, it has a wide, conical form and bright green to yellow-green foliage. The berries take two years to mature and are an important source of food for coyotes, rabbits and birds. Like most junipers, Utah junipers yellow and die from root rot if planted in waterlogged areas. Do not plant this juniper near lawns or other well-watered beds. Utah juniper is hardy in USDA zones 3 to 7.