JUNIPERUS or JUNIPER

Evergreen trees or shrubs, mostly hardy. The leaves of these conifers are small, either needle-shaped or scale-like and the cones frequently coated with resin. They succeed on chalky soils. Some of the dwarf species, notably Juniperus conferta and J. communis compressa (the Noah’s Ark juniper) and J. sabina tamariscifolia (the Spanish juniper), are excellent for rock gardens. J. horizontalis has a spreading habit with whipcord foliage turning glaucous blue in autumn and makes an effective ground cover, the branches rooting as they spread. Among the taller species which are grown as bushes or trees, J. virginiana (the pencil cedar) attains 15—20 ft. in Britain, but will grow to 100 ft. in North America. It is quick-growing and useful for screening. J. communis (the common’juniper) one of our three native conifers (the others are the yew and Scots pine) is found on sunny slopes of chalk downs, especially in Hampshire, as well as on mountains and grows to about 10 ft. J. recurva (the drooping juniper) reaches 30—40 ft.

Propagation is by seed which is often very slow to germinate. The varieties as distinct from the true species may be increased in August by short, firm cuttings of the current year’s growth, inserted in a cold frame, under a hand-light or in pots in a propagating case in a cool greenhouse. Junipers have various economic uses. The fragrant wood is generally red and stands up well to the weather. J. virginiana is employed for the casings of lead pencils and cigar boxes and is also sometimes used by cabinet makers. Walking sticks and railway sleepers are made from juniper wood. Some species have medicinal properties and are used to treat skin diseases and kidney troubles. A fragrant oil is distilled from certain species and the cones of J. communis are used for flavouring gin. The smoke arising from burning of beech wood with juniper berries is stated to give Westphalian ham its unique flavour.

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.