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Gardening : <i> Juniperus chinensis “Torulosa"</i> : Hollywood Juniper, Evergreen shrub

A shrub of many names--Hollywood, twisted, kaizuka--the “Torulosa” juniper reaches about 12 to 15 feet in height with a distinctive branching habit. One might even say a bizarre branching habit.

While most of the Torulosa is a dense cone of dark green, branches shoot out at weird angles. Some go up, some go out, some go around, and the effect is that of a plant trying to unwrap itself.

The first time I noticed this juniper was at UCLA, where a pale beige wall was lined with about a dozen of them. When the sun hit at an angle, the branches and their shadows looked like a multilimbed Indian goddess. The effect was quite beautiful and exotic.

But put one of these in the middle of a lawn, all by itself, and you have a forlorn, unsettling sight. Maybe it just needs something nearby to reach for, but Torulosa looks tortured when it is alone and merely tortuous when in a crowd.

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Junipers are the most popular evergreens in Southern California, probably because there’s a shape and size for almost every need: everything from ground covers to giant trees.

Junipers adapt to almost any soil, unless it is waterlogged, and grow happily in full sun (except in the desert) or light shade. Once established, they are drought-tolerant, so don’t plant them where they will be watered often.

Junipers also attract a dismaying range of pests, including spider mites, aphids and borers.

The mites announce themselves with fine webs among the branches. If there is any doubt, tap a branch while holding a piece of white paper under it; when tiny spiders (very tiny) fall onto the paper, you’ve got trouble. Mites can often be held in check by blasts of water. This can also work for aphids, but it requires vigilance. Neglect the junipers for a few days, and a whole new generation of aphids moves in.

But junipers are handsome plants, they don’t always attract insects, and the Torulosa is uniquely suited to light stucco walls. Just be sure to give it plenty of neighbors.


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