Juniper (Juniperus communis)
Juniper is a small, slow growing, and short lived evergreen (usually up to 100 years), and is a pioneer species disliking the shade. It was one of the first species to colonise Britain after the last Ice Age but is now in serious decline. Juniper's habit can vary markedly; in exposed conditions it is a low scraggy bush, but can grow to a neat column. Its dense spiky foliage provides a winter roost for birds and cover for small mammals, which also feed on Juniper berries. Generally it is a plant associated with light, well-drained soils.
Juniper berries were most famously known for flavouring gin, but these seem mainly to be a better sort of berry sourced from Italy. Its oil was also used, as an abortifacient, and crushed up plant given to horses as a pick-me-up. It burns with a pleasant cedar fragrance. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recommends some rather good Juniper recipes in this Guardian article, together with a rather good supplier!
Think twice about junipers if you or your neighbours grow pears. Juniper-Pear Rust is becoming a common fungus that switches between pears and junipers in alternate years. When it attacks pear leaves, they drop early and the yield of pears is reduced. In some pear-growing areas of the USA the planting of junipers is illegal.
These juniper plants are supplied as small (10cm) plants in 7cm pots, or larger plants in 2 litre pots. We're regularly and understandably asked for male and female plants, but the truth is they're impossible to sex at this age.
Suppliers: RV Roger
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