View Full Version : Best Junipers for Topiary Applications?

01-01-2009, 02:07 PM
First, let me say I've seen the word topiary used for everything from formal "English" style hedgerows to pom-pom and sculptures. For the purpose of this thread, I use the word topiary only to imply plants that tolerate heavy pruning and shaping.

I have seen one particular jumiper which had prolific fruiting. Cones with a berry-like blue-ish color with a white "powder" appearance. I believe it is a Juniperus chinensis Keteleeri, but I am not cetain of the ID. It could also be a Juniperus scopulorim Medora I believe.

Which of these two junipers lend themselves best to hard pruning and shaping? Does anyone prefer another Juniper for this?

I have several landscaping jobs I could use these in coming up, but one in particular calls for an eventual height of about 6 feet tall, about 3 feet wide. I won't be shaping these as much as hard pruning to keep them at the desired size for the location and application. I also prefer prolific fruiting for added winter interest.

Any help appreciated!

01-01-2009, 02:15 PM
this isn't exactly what your talking but i've had a lot of success with wire frames and confederate jasmine

White Gardens
01-01-2009, 05:56 PM
That's a tough one Whitey.

I have had good luck with just about any standard Juniper when it comes to pruning. It seems to be just a matter of finding the right height to start with and getting a good shape to begin with.

Too small and it seems that I have to wait many seasons just to get the right size and shape to achieve the topiary look that I'm after.

Too big, and the shape will never be what I'm looking for without taking too much off and having bare spots that never seem to fill in.

As for Height, I tend to go with standard upright junipers, though they tend to look a little ragged as they get to maturity, but tend to not get out of hand width wise.

Fruit wise, it seems that the more pruning a Juniper gets the less likely hood they will produce fruits in a season. Rarely do I see fruiting on a pruned juniper.

Might want to look around some British sites to see what they use, they're big on their topiarys.

Unfortunatly I think the two types you brought up might not take heavy prunnings, but that's just from reading about them and not having any experiences with them.

White Gardens
01-01-2009, 06:13 PM
Another Thought Whitey.....

I'm making references to more needle like junipers. Are you looking for a type with a broader leaf structure similar to an arborvitae?

01-01-2009, 11:49 PM
My next door neighbor has a "two ball" sort of one on top of the other pom-pom topiary. I started doing his pruning last year. The description fits both the medora and keleteer, and the cones are prolific, even on this heavy pruned topiary. In fact, the reason I like it so much is soley because of the bluish berry like cones... tons of them.

I've also never seen another topiary juniper fruit like this one does. That is why I suspect it might be a keteleeri, as that type is supposedly the most prolific cone bearers amoung the junipers.

This plant is approximately 10 years old, about 5' tall, and the pom-poms are almost round, a bit oval on the horizontal plane and about 2.75 feet in diameter, one above the other. The trunk is about 3 1/2" wide at the base, and about 2 1/2" between the pom-poms.

It was obviously topped and grown in the nursery as a topiary. I know the home owner has no clue what variety it is. Obviously, it has taken heavy pruning but still fruits prolifically.

I have several plantings I could use these in. I can get 4-5' B&B keteleeri's for $69 each in low vlome. I'd like to use them in some foundation beds to hide imperfections and wiring, hose faucets etc. attached to some of my customer's homes with this juniper... but I really would like to match this particular plant. The cones are very interesting for the winter garden in my opinion.

Can't find the link, but did find one site that said the keteleeri is adaptable to topiary shaping. I think this plant is too wide (at the pom-poms) to be a scapulorum medora. I've also read it will take at least a year and a half after transplanting before fruiting.

Again, I won't be doing "real topiary" pruning on them, but heavy shaping, topping them at 6 foot, and keeping them dense and tight.

Thanks for the feedback.... as an aside, I have seen many topiaries (not my favorite plant form) that are junipers like hetzis, but there are several kinds of hetzis too, and which ones are best for topiary applications I'm not sure.

Any nursey men out there doing topiaries?

From one guy named White, to another (I think) thanks for the reply.

PS: This does happen to be something of an arbovite look-alike, but it's the cones that I find so appealing, more so than the leafing. The leafing on the keteleeri and medora are both scaling types, less needle-looking.

White Gardens
01-02-2009, 12:25 AM
If you could take a pic Whitey, that would be great.

You've got me looking through all my books, but I need to narrow down my search.

I like challenges, Thumbs Up

I've seen a few varieties at the local nurseries that have the pom-pom shape, and I'm wondering if it's the same as your describing.

The only other thing that I can think of why it is fruiting is that there is a male in the vicinity, but you said that it is only one.

The Elements Group
01-02-2009, 01:08 AM
Are these going to frame in an entrance or anything of that nature? Full sun area i presume , (if not let us know), another option to consider is having a container with a specimen (ornamental of course) and surrounding the edges with seasonal color (means more money and diverse options) also if up against a wall try an espallier (depending on the zone of which you reside. And yes, pictures do help in this situation. best of luck and Happy New Year.

01-02-2009, 03:56 AM
I will take a pic tomorrow... and post it, or a couple of pics. A close up, a medium distance and from a few feet away.

One place in particular I want to use these... an attached garage that was enclosed and converted to living space. The contractor did a lousy job with the brickwork. The bricks don't match the color of the original bricks, and he did not "alternately" lay them... he just cut some of the existing bricks in half! It looks lousy! There is a small foundation bed in front of this butchered brickwork, and I want to install two of these junipers in front of the "seams".

A couple of six footers will help hide the poor masonary job. I can balance the rest of the bed with other plantings. These two will frame a double set of double hung windows located in the middle of where the old garage door was. Maybe I can take a pic of that too.

They will be installed on an eastern exposure... full sun from sunrise to until about 1pm.... should be more than enough I figure. This bed is not on the sprinkler system, and the home owner cares... they will water as directed, so the junipers won't have any wet feet problems.

Dreams To Designs
01-02-2009, 11:25 AM
I have had good luck with Juniperus chinensis 'Spartan' for the size you seek. It will naturally stay tight and you should be able to keep them at less than 6" with minimal pruning. The berry set is good, but Spartan is green and holds it's color well throughout the winter. I also work in zones 6-7B and similar soil situations to what you have on Long Island. The Keteleeri makes a great candidate for shaping and topiary, but they must be started young to reveal their best shape. The color and the berry set are definite focal points in a landscape, but try to use three to distract away from the ugly brick, rather than frame it with two.


01-02-2009, 03:52 PM
Attempting some pics:

01-02-2009, 04:03 PM
As you can see, there is room for only two tall junipers here framing those windows. I will move the boxwood over several feet centered on the two windows. The idea is to install an unpruned specimen on either side, but top it at 6 foot and prune it for density, while keeping it pretty narrow. Flowering annuals and perennials will be added around these three shrubs, the 2 junipers and the boxwood. Further down the right side of this bed is another set of windows, and a hydranga near the walkway towards the front door which will stay.

Because these junipers will be at the top of the driveway, people will be walking by them in close proximity all year long. Thus, why I would like to duplicate the profuse cone production on this other topiary juniper.

I hope the pics are clear enough. I pruned this Juniper late in the season, and removed about 40% of the cones, but as you can also see, it still has tons of cones on it.

Plant Buyer 83
01-02-2009, 07:51 PM
Juniperus chinensis 'Blue Point'
Juniperus virginiana 'Blue Arrow'
Juniperus scopulorum 'Wichita Blue'
Juniperus chinensis 'Spartan'

I apologize for not reading the other posts on the thread but here are some suggestions.

White Gardens
01-03-2009, 12:28 AM
I hate to say it Whitey, but I'm stumped.:hammerhead:

The only thing I can say it is, which would be crazy on so many levels because it's considered a weed, is that it's a Juniper Ashei Buchholz. If that's true, and you made topiaries out of them, then you could make money hand over fist.

The berries and needle structure looks extremely similar.

I would like to know a couple more things, Is it extremely sappy when you touch it, does the foliage cast a "brownish" appearance through the summer, and what does the bark look like.

I've seen a few that pop up around here, and going by what your saying about the size of the stems for the age of the plant (and the fact that it has been heavily pruned) I keep coming up with that answer.......

All the other species I've done research on describe more of a redish, brown berry.

Oh, and FYI, yes, my last name is White.Thumbs Up

White Gardens
01-03-2009, 12:45 AM

Or, an Eastern Red Cedar ???

Dreams To Designs
01-03-2009, 11:16 AM
Whitey, have you ever used or seen, Ilex crenata 'Sky Pencil'. Three of these would fit nicely in the space you have, they do get a good berry set in the fall, not bright blue though. 3 Sky Pencils would look really good there with two to the left of the window and 1 to the right. If you had a photo looking straight at that area, I could show you. Most likely a car parked in the driveway leading up to that area. If the boxwoods are doing well for you, there is a similar plant in Buxus sempervirens 'Graham Blandy' to the sky pencil. Much more expensive, and no fruit, but very durable.

By only using two plants there, you are framing the window as your focal point, and it's really not that interesting. Perhaps if you added a window box to it and planted it with seasonal color and winter greens it would further distract from the ugly brick repair.


01-03-2009, 03:02 PM
A couple more pics...

01-03-2009, 03:18 PM
White Gardens, here is a pic of the bark... don't know if that helps. More info... this juniper is only FOUR years old, not ten and only began bearing cones last fall. It did not have near as many cones last year. I spoke to the home owner... I thought this went in 10 years ago when they had all their masonary redone.

The plant was purchased at a local nursey, but they couldn't remember which one... a retail nursery. In the past 3 years, every independent retail nursery here but one has sold out... to real estate developers.

Dto D, here are two better pics of the bed. I don't see how I could fit two junipers where the boxwood is. Two in the middle and one on either end might work better, but two in the middle would block the light fixture for the driveway. In any case, the customer refuses to move the hydranga. :hammerhead: I am free to do whatever else I want.

The heathers on the side of the drive I installed this past spring. Wonderful little plants, and they keep people from walking on the lawn. The mediterrameam pinks are in bloom, and the Robert Coleman's are a beautiful reddish maroon.

This customer is also planning for new masonary (walkway, stairs) and new windows, but they won't be fixing the bad brickwork. I suggested doing something to hide it a bit.

Once the new windows are in, I can suggest window boxes, etc.

PS: This was my first year in this business. I do have two years of Orn Hort studies under my belt, but it was a loooong time ago. I have found that suggesting things like this to my new (they are all new) mow and fert/pesticide customers has led to some nice small but profitable jobs like this one. OH has always been more than a hobby for me, but this is my first year in the biz.

01-03-2009, 04:40 PM
I would also like to say thank you to all... you gave me a lot of ideas, and plenty to research!

WG, the berries in that pic are identical to these, although the cones on this plant are starting to brown a bit, they were just like the ones in the pic you linked to about a month ago. That pic lists it as an "ashe juniper"... I'll have to dig around some and see if that is a dense shrub like this one is.

D to D, I've also been looking up some of your suggestions and others, just wanted all folks good enough to reply here that I've been paying attention and appreciate the suggestions.

I think I may take a sample to my coop ext and see what they say.

01-03-2009, 07:38 PM
This is juniperus chinesis "spearmint" zoom in on the pictures and you can see the berries

White Gardens
01-03-2009, 07:41 PM
I don't know, it seems to me the simple answer is the best one in this case. Whenever I got into Chinese/European/Japanese Junipers, it seemed to always lead to a dead end.

Nurseries are always trying to find cheaper plants to sell at higher prices. If that's the case I feel it's got to be a cheap cedar tree of some sort that someone got the bright idea to keep it shaped. If that's true in this case, then that's a brilliant idea, and I might have to get some cheap cedar starts and prune them into topiaries to sell 3-4 years down the road.

I've also thought about the berries. If I'm not wrong, then as far as I know most, if not all, cedars are male and female. If you only have a female bush, then there has got to be a male nearby. Might want to peak around the neighborhood.

Even if it is a semi-small tree, then constant pruning will keep it in check, similar to a potted bonsai tree. Even though your not prunning the roots too, your still prunning the new growth and keeping down Hormone levels, and also the square footage of foliage for light absorption.

I'm Kinda second guessing the Ashe Juniper in this case though, only from descriptions of the Ashe growing with multiple trunks at the base on most of them. But.... I'm still leading to believe it's a common Cedar of some sort. Also, for Four years, probably actually 5-8, the trunk seems to be the right size and texture for a Cedar.

If I were you, definitively take a sample to your extension office, it's hard to see the details in the pictures, and I know how hard it is to get a good close up with a digital. I would tell them though, you have an evergreen and that's it. Don't describe the shape so they're not thrown off by a mental image of other topiaries (I before E me thinks :dizzy:).

Good Luck,Thumbs Up

I want to know what it is too, so post your final results, if you get it.

White Gardens
01-03-2009, 07:50 PM
This is juniperus chinesis "spearmint" zoom in on the pictures and you can see the berries

Now that's a cool Topiary.