Lessons from Replacing My Junipers

July 27th, 2017

A picture of a Japanese Boxwood shrub
Japanese Boxwood in my yard. Photograph Courtesy of University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.

Before I started my position with the Living With Fire Program, my husband and I removed our flammable junipers as they were too close for comfort being fifteen feet from the house. Next we were faced with the task of replacing the junipers. Armed with little horticulture knowledge, my husband and I visited a home improvement store and purchased an adorable little Japanese Boxwood shrub. In our minds, this would be a small, low maintenance shrub. After speaking with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s Master Gardener Coordinator, Wendy Hanson-Mazet, I learned that this is NOT the shrub that I should have planted.

A graphic that depicts what ladder fuels can look like
An example of ladder fuels. Graphic Courtesy of University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.

Wendy told me that Japanese Boxwoods are meant to be used as hedges, require pruning and they can grow anywhere from 3- to 12-feet tall. I planted this shrub next to my tree and even if the shrub grows to be three-feet tall, it can become a “ladder fuel”. In other words, it can be “vegetation that would allow a fire to ignite taller vegetation such as tree branches”. Wendy pointed out that the Japanese Boxwood is similar to the Euonymus shrub species which IS recommended in Living With Fire’s publication, “Choosing the Right Plants for Northern Nevada’s High Fire Hazard Environments”. Even though I planted something that is similar to a recommended plant, the placement, height of the plant and maintenance of the shrub aren’t desirable.

In hindsight, I wish I would have planted herbaceous flowers or a low-lying, low-maintenance shrub instead. I hope people can learn from my mistake and if plants need to be replaced, check out the publication, “Choosing the Right Plants for Northern Nevada’s High Fire Hazard Environments” here. If you need horticulture advice, contact a Master Gardener at http://www.unce.unr.edu/ .

Headshot of JamieJamie Roice-Gomes

Jamie Roice-Gomes is the outreach coordinator with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s Living with Fire Program.  She earned her Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation and a Master of Arts in Interactive Environmental Journalism. She was a public relations assistant for Conrad Communications, a public information officer intern at the Nevada Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, and a Biological Science Technician at the USDA-Agriculture Research Service. She also enjoys volleyball, the Great Basin Desert, and spending time with family. Contact Jamie at 775-336-0261 or roicej@unce.unr.edu.


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