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Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote!
Benjamin Franklin

Cedars & Junipers

Where the rest of our evergreens are in essence bottle brushes, the cedar and juniper group are closer to being brooms. Instead of needles, they have scales. There is no real distinction between leaf and twig.

Skybound Cedar

Row of skybound cedar.

Mint Julep Juniper

Mint Julep Juniper in my demo garden.

Most cedars are borderline here, but with suitable choice of location, will do well. Too many people put them on the south or west side of a wall or fence. This forms a sun pocket. Winter air in such places is stagnant, and warm. The top of the tree is warm and cozy while the roots are frozen, unable to replace water lost by the leaves. In addition, the tree gets direct sun, snow reflected sun, and reflection off the object to the north.

This problem affects upright junipers too, although the scopulorum group of junipers is more resistant.

Cedars do best with constant damp, but not soggy ground. Rototilling several inches of wood chips into the soil will help with water retention, and will moderate our heavy clay. They will do best if heavily mulched (2-3 inches of wood chips on top of a double layer of cardboard. Renew every 2-3 years) and put on a once a week automatic waterer. Set it to put enough water to keep the top 5 inches of soil moist, but not soggy.

Cedars are moderately shade tolerant.

Junipers tend to prefer a very well drained soil. They are much more drought tolerant, but like cedar they are subject to winter dehydration. The upright ones should not be in a sun pocket. Near the house, use the low sprawling ones. Water thoroughly in late fall to help them through the winter.

Junipers do best in full sun, although I've seen native ones in dappled shade.

Keeping Cedar alive

I'm getting a lot of returns  this year (2021) from last winter. We no longer offer a warranty on cedar. Too much depends on the care they get. Below represents my best understanding of how to make them thrive.

Skybound cedars are nominally zone 2 hardy. We are zone 3 -- about 10C warmer. The zone system tries to make something very complicated into a single number. Dormancy isn't a light switch on trees, but rather is a progression of adaptation. In 2021 we had the coldest February in 20 years, and without much snow cover. Lot of root damage. Lot of wind burn and sun scald.

The perfect storm of conditions would be a winter like this:

Key things for cedar:

The first two are hard to do.  If you have impervious clay soil you need to build a raised bed for them so that you have 12" of soil above the clay.  You can't just excavate the clay as you just leave a swimming pool for them. If you excavate 16" and put weeping tile in, crushed rock, and infiltration cloth you can put them in at ground level.  The tile has to lead to french drain or discharge at a lower point.  You don't have to excavate the whole width. Ensure good drainage if next to patios or driveways where the slope drains toward the trees.

You may not need to do this:  Dig a hole 2 shovels deep.  Fill it with water, wait 2 hours, and refill it.  Take a stick that you have marked with ticks 1" apart, and pound it in until a tick is at water level.  Record the drop over the next 24 hours checking it initially every half hour, then as it lowers, longer intervals.  If the water is gone in 24 hours, you don't need to do drainage. Often you will find that the water declines quickly to some point, then more slowly in undisturbed subsoil. If this is the case then measure your 12" from the start of the 'slow' point.

For your back fill, a mix of 1/4 clay soil that came out of the hole, 1/2 black dirt, 1/4 wood chips.  You need to prepare a strip about 4 feet wide.

Hot spots form on the south, and to a lesser extent, west side of anything that blocks the wind.  A ceder here gets direct sun, snow reflected sun, and house reflected sun, while it's roots are frozen.  No evergreen can tolerate this.  Cedar need to be the windblocker's height away.  E.g. a 2 story house with peaked root is about 22 feet tall.  Put the cedars 22 feet south of the house.  Cedars do well on the north side of a house.  Cedars do well if they are shaded from winter sun by tall leafless trees, or other evergreens such as spruce or pine.

Planting

Cedars are usually sold in a fairly fast draining mix.

Regular watering

Get a moisture meter with a 12" probe.  Check the moisture levels in your trees at 2" 6" and 10" deep.  Measure 2 days after you water.  If the shallow reading is drier than the deep reading, you need to water more often.If the deep reading is extremely wet, you need to water less total water.  If you get moist - dry - moist, you need some more water when you water.

Start off by watering 3 times a week, using about 1/4 of the volume of the pot. That is, if the pot was a #10, you want to put 2-3 gallons of water every other day. Adjust according to the protocol with the moisture meter above.

You problably should measure every two days until you get a feel for what they need.  Then measure whenever the weather changes.  E.g. Start of a heat wave will dry out the top layer fast.  Usually you will need to increase the frequency  when it gets hot, but only some increase in quantity. You don't have to measure every tree. Do first, middle and last plus any that are on top of a rise or bottom of a hollow. Yes. Count it as a rise or hollow even if only 3 inches different.

These water probes are somewhat delicate. You may need a stiff rod to punch a pilot hole. Wipe them clean after use. Since you are using it often, buy it from a place that has a good return policy. Canadian Tire has worked well for me.

You can get a feel for what the numbers mean by preparing samples and testing them. You want to know what "Just barely moist" reads and what "saturated soil" reads. Note that dissolved fertilizer will increase the readings for the same moisture level.

If you disregarded the advice to strip 3" of dirt off the outside of the dirt ball, you may find that water goes right through the root ball, and barely wets it at all. if you did this, water very slowly using a soaker hose. Split your watering time between the two sides. You may want to lay a pair of soaker hoses permanently under the mulch. put a bag over the fitting at the end to keep crud and bugs from taking up residence.

Fall watering

In the fall after deciduous leaves have turned, but before it's cold, give the cedars a double watering. This is often around Thanksgiving.  Give them a regular watering when you see ice on the ponds. This is often around Remembrance Day, but can be earlier.

Winter Care

If we have a light snowfall winter, shovel snow from the grass onto the base of the trees. Ideally you want a foot of fluffy snow there extending two feet from the edge of the folliage. As the snow is more dense, you need more thickness. This should go at least 2 feet in all directions from the base of the tree. This will slow root freezing in winter, giving them time to adapt.

While not optimum, you can wrap them with burlap.  White burlap is best.  Burlap can be painted with any cheap latex paint. Get a sprayer to do the painting. Spread the burlap out on your lawn. Your grass will look odd for a couple of mowings after. Keep the dog and small children elsewhere until the paint is dry. (Don't ask...)

Better is to just set posts in the ground, and hang the burlap on the posts to block the sun in winter.  In the summer plant sweet peas or hops to climb the posts.  You aren't trying to keep the trees warm.  You're trying to keep them cool so they don't dry out. Tyvek house wrap should also work. Secure to the post with battens.

Inventory tables are double rows to make them usable on small screens.
Common name and container in column 1.
Count is how many we think we have left. Price is per tree.
Height will be there next year, we hope.

Conifer -- Cedar

Common Name
Container
Count
Price
Height
(feet)
Cedar, E. Wht. -- 'Skybound'
#10 Growbag (42 qt)
60
$120.00
Cedar, E. Wht. -- 'Skybound'
#10 Growbag (42 qt)
2
$140.00
Cedar, E. Wht. -- 'Skybound'
#10 Std pot (30 qt)
8
$120.00
Cedar, E. Wht. -- 'Skybound'
#2 Std pot (6 qt)
104
$30.00
Cedar, Eastern White
#10 Growbag (42 qt)
76
$90.00
Cedar, Eastern White
#10 Growbag (42 qt)
7
$100.00
Cedar, Eastern White
#5 Std pot (15 qt)
224
$60.00
Cedar, Eastern White
#5 Std pot (15 qt)
6
$70.00
Last Update: 2021-Aug-14

Inventory tables are double rows to make them usable on small screens.
Common name and container in column 1.
Count is how many we think we have left. Price is per tree.
Height will be there next year, we hope.

Conifer -- Juniper

Common Name
Container
Count
Price
Height
(feet)
Juniper, Blue Chip
#5 Std pot (15 qt)
10
$70.00
Juniper, Blue Star
#5 Std pot (15 qt)
10
$70.00
Juniper, Buffalo
#5 Std pot (15 qt)
10
$70.00
Juniper, Calgary Carpet
#5 Std pot (15 qt)
10
$70.00
Juniper, Gold Lace
#5 Std pot (15 qt)
20
$70.00
Juniper, Hughes
#5 Std pot (15 qt)
10
$70.00
Juniper, Icee Blue
#5 Std pot (15 qt)
10
$70.00
Juniper, Wichita Blue
#8 Std pot (24 qt)
10
$120.00
Last Update: 2021-Aug-14


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