Spreading Evergreens

Spreading evergreens are great for ground cover or soil erosion. What a great choice when considering ground cover in your garden. For that matter, spreading evergreens are very effective for soil erosion on slopes. In my past gardens, my first choice for ground cover or slopes is definitely this plant.
When planting spreading varieties, incorporate small rocks into the flower creeping junipergarden as well. This also works well if the area needs to be held in place because of soil erosion, like an incline or slope. We have certainly done both, the use of porous limestone for terracing a slope and adding larger rocks for added interest. Then we plant the Mugos and Junipers. We have also placed larger boulders but give careful consideration to where the rocks and boulders should be placed. You only want to move the boulders once. When adding larger boulders, make sure they look like they’ve been there for centuries. In other words, dig them part way into the ground…don’t just sit them on top of the soil. I also employ porous limestone. It holds moisture and is great for garden plants. Below are my favorites and ones that I have planted in my flower gardens and garden slopes.

Planting Spreading Evergreens

When planting spreading evergreens or any kind of shrub remember to:

Dig the hole 3 times as wide and as deep as the container.
Add a hand full of bone meal when planting.
Add some ‘quick start’ fertilizer like Miracle-Gro Quick Start or MYKE to establish the roots.
Once you have back filled with the soil, apply 2″ layer of mulch around the shrub, not too close to the main stock.
Water regularly until established.
After 2 weeks of planting feed with a water soluble plant food. After shrubs have been planted for a year, remember to deep water prior to winter freeze up (if you are in a colder climate like Chicago.) So far the evergreens that I have planted have done well in full sun and shade.

Pruning Spreading Evergreens

I have included the pruning techniques along with the descriptions for each shrub below. However, when pruning these evergreens remember to lift up the branches and get underneath. There is usually dry, brown or even dead branches hiding under the green. This tidies up the shrub and decreases the chance of pest invasion. I usually tackle this job every spring and then again late summer.

The Mugo Pine: A compact stout pine shrub with 2-3″ needles on branches that sweep upwards. You can prune the new growth (called candles) to keep the shrub compact. (that’s what I do) Although the Mugo Pine can get winter burn from the sun, if it gets enough snow cover, should be fine. I trim off the winter burn once the new growth has completed.

The Creeping Juniper – Blue Chip: This creeping juniper’s roots when the branches touch the ground. Branches grow to be about 8-12″. It has a very nice steel blue color. It needs very little pruning and mounds in the center. If you want to prune this shrub, prune it like you were giving it a layered haircut. Don’t forget to trim the spikes coming out from the mound as well.

The Spreading Juniper – Blue Star: This spreading evergreen has horizontal branches and prickly branches. Interestingly, every time I prune my Blue Star I get a rash on my hands and arms. This is a slow growing juniper and grows 2-3′. Could get a little winter burn, but easy to prune (snip off with garden scissors or snips) off.

The Spreading Juniper (Savin) – Calgary Carpet: This juniper has weeping branches and the green needles are a bit prickly. This juniper can grow large but it is a slow grower. It can get winter burn but I just take my scissors and cut off the brown branches. Clean underneath the branches every spring to keep the shrub tidy.

The Taunton Spreading Yew: The spreading yew has soft, flat, dark green needles. This yew is a slow growing spreader. Likes to grow in a moist, protected area. It does get winter browning and I have tried on several occasions to grow the Taunton Yew with no success. They are great for hedges and offer red berries in the fall. However, it is said that the Taunton variety is the best for being resistant to winter burning and the best for a colder climate. If you can grow or want to grow a Yew remember that they like a well-drained, slightly alkaline soil. Prune after the spring growth has started.

Also in the category of spreading evergreens remember about the flowering kinds such as Periwinkle (tiny blue violet flowers) and Japanese Spurge/Pachysandra. Japanese Spurge spreads by underground rhizomes and grows to 10″ tall. It is another great spreading ground cover.

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