If you want to create a rich, full look in your garden, then follow the lead of experienced gardeners, and make sure you show as little bare earth as possible. Sometimes called ‘layering’, good gardens have taller plants, with middle-sized ones below, and a final level of ground-cover beneath all that. In some sections we might not need the taller plants at all, but covering the bare earth is a vital and indispensable part of creating a finished garden. At the same time, we want to keep the work required low, so easy-care, low-maintenance ground-cover evergreens are always the first place to look for solutions. Right at the top of any such list is the reliable Prince of Wales Juniper. This low-growing carpet of blue-green foliage not only looks great all year round, it is incredibly tough and durable, and it grows almost anywhere in the country, from zone 3 to zone 9.
The Prince of Wales Juniper grows quickly into a flat carpet of evergreen foliage. Younger plants are only a few inches tall, and even when mature it rarely rises much above 6 to 8 inches. Even in front of miniature shrubs, it never blocks the view, and allows you to create many visual levels of plant material. It may be short, but it spreads widely, quickly covering several square feet and being about 6 feet across after 10 years. Older plants can be 10 feet wide or more, if they are left to spread unimpeded. The foliage grows in short side branches that sprout more or less horizontally from the main stems, radiating outwards steadily, branching and spreading to create a solid carpet. For most of the year the leaves are a rich and handsome green tinged with blue, the perfect neutral counterpoint to all other colors in the leaves or flowers of your plants. Then in winter we are treated to a terrific color transformation, with the leaves turning a vibrant bronzy-purple at the onset of colder weather. This powerful color is all the more welcome at a time when most of our plants have gone dormant and turned into bare twigs.
Growing Prince of Wales Juniper Evergreens
Use the Prince of Wales Juniper to finish the foreground planting of a bed, particularly one that edges a path, driveway or other paved hard surface. It can spread freely across that surface, softening hard edges and concealing the boundary. This is a great way to turn those rigid lines of paving into a soft transition into your garden. Sloping ground is always a problem, particularly as the soil can wash down during rain. Plant that slope with the Prince of Wales Juniper and the problem is solved. It will cascade down, sometimes rooting as it goes, and both protect the ground from the direct impact of rain and stabilize the soil with its roots and stems. The top edge of walls can be hard and unattractive, but the gentle, wave-like cascade of this evergreen will soften it, spilling over the edge and down, making a fabulous effect. It looks especially attractive with rocks and boulders, and if you have hot, dry areas of gravel, sand and rock to contend with, planting the Prince of Wales Juniper among them soon transforms unsightly drabness into an attractive scene. It works just as well in formal gardens as it does in more casual ones, and it fits well in xeric gardens and natural ones too, especially since it is an American native plant.
Plant the Prince of Wales Juniper in full sun. The heat radiating from roads, paths and hard surfaces never bothers it, which is why it is perfect for those spots in your garden. It will happily grow in any well-drained soil, and that extends to sands, gravels, rocky ground, fresh construction areas, alkaline soil and urban locations. It will tolerate a little shade, but too much, and too much moisture, can lead to disease problems and thin, unsightly growth. Insect pests are normally never a problem, and deer leave it alone. Diseases only occur in wet soil and deep shade, and really, this plant asks nothing at all but a sunny place to grow in. It is worth giving it a little extra care in the first year or two, because although it is drought resistant, some regular watering and fertilizer after planting will encourage the wide-spreading roots it needs to thrive in the future. Once established, it happily takes care of itself. For group planting, space bushes 3 feet apart to create a solid mat in a few years.
History and Origins of Prince of Wales Junipers
The Prince of Wales Juniper is a selected form of the creeping juniper, Juniperus horizontalis. This shrub is found growing in open and often barren places, all the way from Alaska to Main, all through Canada and down into Wyoming and Illinois. The wild plant is low growing and spreading, often mixing with grasses and other dwarf shrubs. Most wild plants have green foliage, and many forms have been selected for gardens that have richer color with bluer leaves, and even more prostrate growth. The variety we call ‘Prince of Wales’ was discovered as a wild plant near Pedkisco Creek, Alberta, Canada, in 1931. It was discovered by staff of the Morden Research Station, but not made available to gardeners until 1967. Presumably its name relates to the investiture of Charles, Prince of Wales, in 1969. This popular variety is always in high demand, and our plants sell out almost as soon as we restock. Order now and eliminate bare earth from your garden once and for all.