Blue Star Glitters in the Winter Landscape

inter is the season when conifers really come into their own in the garden. They provide much needed structure, form, texture and color at a time when the landscape can look so bleak. One of my favorite conifers for year-round interest is the “Blue Star” juniper, a slow-growing dwarf evergreen shrub with an intense silver-blue hue.

When you mention junipers to a gardener, the name often conjures up images of a sea of boring groundcover in the mall parking lot. A self-described “plantaholic” friend of mine was recently looking for plants for a large sunny slope that she had just cleared. She needed plants that would hold the soil, tolerate sun without supplemental watering, and require minimal pampering on this steep terrain. When I suggested the Blue Star juniper, she looked at me with disbelief. What does a juniper have to offer the experienced plant collector?

Junipers are not all the same, however, and as with other plant species, there are many new cultivars available to the home gardener. I have come to love “Blue Star” juniper in my own garden because its intense blue color complements so many plants. For a striking color contrast of opposites on the color wheel, you can plant this juniper with gold threadleaf cypress or other gold colored plants.

In my own garden, I use ‘Blue Star’ in the sunny beds around my home, where a color palette of blues, silvers, purples and pinks complements my blue-gray house. Blue Star looks fabulous with deep pink azaleas and Geranium sanguineum, alongside the variegated Euonymous ‘Gaiety’ and fuzzy Lambs Ears, at the base of my bright blue ‘Endless Summer’ hydrangeas and intereplanted with Heuchera ‘Silver Scrolls’ in an area of partial shade. The key is in the plant “marriages”, and Blue Star is the perfect companion for so many perennials and shrubs!

Blue Star juniper (Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’) is slow-growing and has a low, mounded habit. It grows only to about 1 foot tall in five years, but will eventually mature to 2-3’ high. Its dense, awl-shaped foliage provides an interesting texture in the garden. The upper silver-blue surfaces of the leaves add brilliant color and a star-like sparkle. It is commonly called “singleseed juniper” because each bluish, berry-like, female cone contains but a single seed. Like other junipers, it is cold-hardy, thrives in full sun to part shade, and requires good drainage. Once established, this shrub tolerates droughts, and dry, shallow rocky soil. Horticulturalist and conifer collector Adrian Bloom calls Blue Star “arguably the best dwarf conifer ever raised.”

Blue Star’s dwarf size and neat appearance make it an ideal shrub for foundation plantings and small gardens. It is perfect for the front of a shrub border, in rock gardens, or showcased as a focal point plant to be admired for its color and shape. It also provides erosion control on slopes. It's a no-maintenance evergreen ground cover for sunny areas and a well-behaved companion that will not invade and overpower its neighbors. And for those of us in northern climates, Blue Star provides beautiful foliage that glitters in the winter garden.