Creeping Juniper (Juniperus horizontalis)
A native of the Northeast, Creeping Juniper is basically a groundcover growing 12 to 18 inches tall, spreading 12 to 20 feet; and forming broad, dense roughly circular mats. A single plant can cover an area 6-10' in diameter. The leaves on new shoots are needle-like and sharp-pointed. On older growth the leaves are elliptic and scale-like, and lie flat and overlapping in four rows on the twigs. In cold weather creeping juniper often changes to an overall purplish color. Male cones are about 1/4" in diameter, yellow and dry. Female cones are berry-like and fleshy, dark blue, and contain 1-3 seeds.
Native Americans, including the Blackfoot, Cheyenne, Crow, and Ojibwa, made tea from the berry-like fruits and used infusions to treat kidney diseases, colds and sore throats. They also burned creeping juniper as incense in ceremonies.
Creeping Juniper Choices:
Probably the most popular is Wiltonii, also known as Blue Rug. It stays less than 6" tall, and has glaucus (with a powdery bloom) foliage that is bright steel-blue-green in summer, becoming mauve in winter. Plumosa is taller (to 2'), with needle-like leaves only. It has gray-green foliage in summer, turning purplish bronze in winter. Blue Chip forms a 1 foot high mound of silver-blue foliage with branches spreading 6 to 8 feet wide. Best in cold regions. Hughs has silvery-blue foliage, and is particularly dense and flat-topped. Glauca is very flat (less than 3" tall) with blue-gray foliage that is tinged purple in winter. Bar Harbor is steel blue in summer and plum colored in winter. It is more tolerant of salt spray. Douglasii (Waukegan Juniper) has steel blue foliage which turns silver-purple in fall. Is nonfruiting and has a trailing habit.