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Juniper shrubs can grow just about anywhere. They are very hardy in nature and tolerate drought very well. These shrubs work great for landscaping projects. Certain types of juniper shrubs grow very low across the ground while others grow upward like a tree and take on a pyramid shape.
The foliage colors vary on these shrubs from light green to dark green, silver-blue to blue, and various shades of yellow. Juniper shrubs are used as ground covers, hedges and screens or as a foundation plant. They bear needle-like leaves that feel like an evergreen when touched. Their leaves are soft to the touch, unlike most evergreens, and leave a prickly feeling on the hand.
Some junipers grow berries, while others do not. Some of these berries are used for spices in a variety of dishes and are popular for flavoring gin. Juniper berries have been used in flavoring other liquors and beers as well. The berries can create a sauce that is used with various meat dishes such as pheasant, quail, rabbit and venison. Juniper berries have medicinal properties that have been used by the Native American Indians as a female contraceptive. The berries have been used to treat urinary tract infections, and they can be combined with berberis to create a tea for diabetics.
Juniper shrubs thrive in full sun. They are very tolerant of drier soils and soils with different ranges of pH levels. Some juniper shrubs even grow in sand. When planted in shady spots with moist soil, they can become susceptible to different insects and diseases.
Juniper shrubs will suffer from being watered too much. They only need water in the beginning after the shrub is first planted to help it take root in the soil and grow. It is wise to learn the growth habits of each juniper shrub because pruning them too much can damage the growth. Old dead limbs and foliage can be pruned out from underneath the shrub to help increase air circulation, improving the shrub's overall health.
Insects such as spider mites, bagworms and aphids can be a problem for juniper shrubs. Treating the shrub with the right type of pesticide can eliminate this problem. Diseases usually only occur when there is too much water in the soil or not enough sun. Placing the juniper shrub in the right kind of climate and sunlight can eliminate most problems you may encounter.
Juniper berries are supposed to be very good for diabetics, and in fact they are trying to develop commercial products from juniper berries for this reason.
The berries help to release insulin into the body, which can balance blood sugar levels. It has the bonus effect of helping a person to feel less hungry.
Although, oddly enough, some people once considered juniper berries to be an appetite stimulant.
Maybe it simply helped people to feel as hungry as they should feel.
Growing juniper shrubs in your yard is an excellent idea if you happen to like using juniper berries in your sauces or even if you make your own gin.
While you can dry the berries, and it is even possible to buy them online now, they are at their most potent when they are fresh. In fact, they start losing some of their flavor and smell immediately after they are picked and the quicker you can use them, the better off you are.
You have to make sure to pick one of the edible varieties though, or you might be disappointed. There are plenty junipers shrubs that are too bitter to eat.