UT Gardens’ January 2021 Plant of the Month
Submitted by Andy Pulte, distinguished lecturer and director, Department of Plant Sciences
There are several regions of the world where you can see the very narrow variation of Italian Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens ‘Stricta’ Zone (7)8-10) in cultivation. They thrive in warm Mediterranean climates as their common name suggests. I’ve also seen very nice specimens in places like Charleston, South Carolina. However, I know several people across Tennessee who have tried with little success to grow this plant, perhaps due to the double whammy of wet-coldish winters and humidity. If you have seen the Italian Cypress and love its form and structure in the garden, there is a plant that comes very close to mimicking these attributes and can withstand Tennessee’s climate.
‘Taylor’ juniper, Juniperus virginiana, is named after the village of Taylor, Nebraska (population 186), a windswept prairie town in the heart of the Great Plains. Allen Wilke, a nurseryman from Columbus, Nebraska, found the plant in 1978, growing on land belonging to Marlin Britton west of Taylor. The parent plant was 25 feet tall and 3 feet wide. It was from this tree Wilke took his original cuttings.
When designing gardens, I certainly like to combine formal elements with more natural features. Often, we think of formal elements in the garden as high maintenance. This can include clipped hedges or very straight lines that need to be maintained. Perhaps ‘Taylor’s best feature is maintaining a tight formal appearance with little to no pruning. The size of the parent plant described above is what you can expect in the garden—just 3 feet wide but towering 25 feet high.
‘Taylor’ will do well planted in full sun and will be tolerant of almost any soil (except for soggy). However, I caution against overly amended, overly moist or nutrient rich soils. This can cause ‘Taylor’ to grow too fast and its form cannot be guaranteed. Think of the best spot in the garden for this plant as full sun in less than ideal soil.
Overall, you will be impressed with the growth rate of ‘Taylor’. It is not as quick as some of the very common screening evergreens you might encounter. However, it only takes a few years to have a noticeable plant in the landscape. This plant is of course a cultivar of the very common Eastern Redcedar you see growing throughout Tennessee. It is tough, resilient and can make a great addition to your landscape.
‘Taylor’ junipers can be viewed at each UT Gardens location, in Knoxville, Crossville and Jackson.
The UT Gardens includes plant collections located in Knoxville, Crossville and Jackson. Designated as the official botanical garden for the State of Tennessee, the collections are part of the UT Institute of Agriculture. The Gardens’ mission is to foster appreciation, education and stewardship of plants through garden displays, educational programs and research trials. The Gardens are open during all seasons and free to the public. For more information, see the Gardens website:utia.tennessee.edu/state-botanical-garden.