By Sandra Nelson
Often disparaged as just a common roadside plant, the native Eastern Red Cedar is truly a boost to a winter garden.
Eastern red cedars, or junipers, are easy to grow, tolerating conditions that would quickly wipe out other species. They prefer full sun, shallow rocky, well-drained soil and dry conditions. They tolerate drought, erosion, air pollution, harsh winds and even black walnut toxicity. Deer avoid them, but birds and butterflies are attracted to them. Conical or columnar in shape, they can grow to a height of 30 to 65 feet. For most of the year, the prickly, dark green needles have a silvery cast underneath, but sometimes they do turn brownish-green in winter. Newer varieties tend to hold their color better.
The inconspicuous flowers of the Eastern red cedar are dioecious, meaning that both male and female plants are necessary for cone and seed production. The small, bluish-purple berry-like cones are diuretics and can be used to flavor gin.