Container Juniper Shrub Winter Dormancy - Zone 5 - December 2022

For the past few years (planted in 2019), we've had a creeping/crawling Juniper shrub planted in a patio container out back.  I put it in this container and attempted to prune it a little bit and wire it up when I was focused on trying my hand at bonsai.   Two years later (Spring of 2021), I was seeing some wire damage and (for now) abandoned the project.  My thought was....let this thing grow a bit more, then let's revisit it for pruning and shaping as it is more mature.  

On a recent walk in the backyard, I came across (or...really...'noticed') this shrub in the container and I was (temporarily) alarmed.  Look at it in the photo below.  It is maroon-ish/green.  Or, I suppose, one could view it as greenish/maroon-ish/brown-ish/grey-ish?  Is that a color? (That is a lot of 'ishes'.)

I snapped that photo and then went looking back in the garden diary here.  I found this post from two years ago - December of 2020.  Good news:  it was (then) the same color as today.  So, no problems here, it seems.   In February of 2021, I posted a photo showing how there was an insulation blanket of snow on top of it that (I think) helped protect it from the elements.  

The unique thing for this Juniper is that it is dealing with dormancy in a unique (to me) manner by changing color.  

Compare this conifer that appears to be going into dormancy with this Green Giant Thuja that I posted last week that is turning light brown.  These are very different - the Thuju is (I think) dying.  And this one is just changing for the upcoming season.  

In a NYT gardening column recently, Margaret Roach talked about botany. And how a little study of botany can be a great way of getting closer to your garden. From her column:

Putting some botany into our horticulture can help improve results in the garden. But best of all, it deepens our appreciation of how plants live their hard-working lives.
The closing section of her piece focuses on evergreens.  It felt very on.the.nose for my current view of this container shrub.  From the column:
“They’re always green,” Dr. Alvarez said, “but that doesn’t mean it’s always the same needles.

When she worked for the Central Park Conservancy, Dr. Alvarez heard the question regularly starting in the early fall, when the inner foliage of many conifers turned yellow and brown. “What’s wrong with the trees?” visitors wanted to know.

As part of their life cycle, conifers undergo leaf drop, too. But it’s a sequential one — not an annual process like that of deciduous trees, and not to be confused with discolored foliage throughout the tree or at the branch tips at other times, which may indicate disease or injury.

Each year, the oldest foliage fades and prepares to fall. How long each needle holds on before that is particular to the species, ranging from two years to four or more.

Admittedly, the process can look alarming.

There’s no need to panic, though. Nothing’s wrong — provided you know a little about how to read the tree leaves.

Emphasis, mine.

Not always the *same* needles.  That's a whole new thought to me.  But, it sure is helpful in thinking about how this Juniper (unknown variety) is navigating dormancy this Winter in this yellow container.  

Looking back at the photos, it seems that this shrub has put on some mass, despite being (mostly) left alone.  Something to put on my 2023 to-do list here is to take a closer look at this shrub and see if it is time to begin to prune and shape it into something more interesting.  


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