Juniperus virginiana has many common names: Red cedar, Eastern red cedar and Pencil cedar to name a few. And to make it all the more confusing it isn't a cedar (Cedrus) at all, but a juniper. Nonetheless, this beautiful North American native is an evergreen conifer that grows 40 to 50 feet tall and 10 to 20 feet wide. It's form is difficult to pin point because seedling grown Red cedars may be oval, columnar, or pyramidal, but they are generally upright without being rigid.

It's a bit of a mystery why it isn't used more often in the home landscape. You will rarely find it in the big nurseries, though you will find some of its cultivars, which are numerous. But the species is hardly ever encountered. And yet if you were looking for a tough tree in a rough spot, few trees are as tough as a Red cedar, and if you were looking for a single tree for a wild-life friendly garden, few bestow the blessings this one will. Or if you need a tree that is long-lived, or with beautiful, peeling red bark, and richly fragrant wood, again the Red cedar is a great choice. And yet, it is typically found only in old cemeteries and rural areas. Such a mystery for a tree as beautiful and useful as this one. The dense evergreen foliage makes it a superb, year-round windbreak or screen. And the foliage is attractive being a rich, true green. And the fragrant wood is effective as an insect repellent which explains its popularity for chests and closets. The fruit is a blue-grey berry that almost smothers the branches lending a smoky gray haze to the female trees. And this fruit is a favorite of wild-life.

Red cedar performs beautifully with absolutely no care, being adaptable to most soil types and conditions. It's native to North America from southern Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, a vast range of climate zones. It is drought tolerant and thrives at the seashore. And its size is not so immense that this slow growing evergreen would not be adaptable to most modern gardens. And although it's the parent of scores of beautiful cultivars, the species itself is a beautiful, and useful garden subject, either as a specimen or as a group along a drive. It will thrive across North America, the UK, New Zealand and Australia.

Red cedar


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