Most plants grow upwards, but the Juniper likes to adopt a sideways approach. Officially, it’s called Juniperus squamata 'Blue Carpet'. It only grows to be 30cm high, but it compensates for this by eagerly growing sideways to at least a metre and a half. If you give it time, it becomes a proper groundcover. Ideal for bringing some interesting textures to a border, fantastic combined with grey-green plants and white flowers, and it's also an easy plant with a preference for ‘poor’ soil.
Hardy blue hero
There are over sixty different species of Juniper and it comes in many forms. It’s one of the best-known conifers in the cypress family. This 'blue carpet’ is descended from a Chinese Juniper that grows in the Himalayas, among other places. The plant is evergreen (or in this case grey-blue), is undemanding and is also hardy - that’s why Juniper can be found everywhere in the northern hemisphere as far as Greenland.
Flowers first, then berries
The conifer has both male and female specimens. The ladies are fertilised in May and June when the wind carries the pollen from the gentlemen. If it works, conical berries appear which change colour from blue to black and remain on the plant in the winter. Birds and small garden mammals love them.
- Juniper is a corruption of the Latin word Juniperus. This is a compound of 'junior', meaning ‘the younger’, ad 'parere' which means 'to appear’. This refers to the young fruit, which appear before the riper fruit have fallen off.
- The berries have been used to make spirits since the early Middle Ages, although originally it was purely for medicinal purposes.
- The Asian ancestor of Juniperus squamata 'Blue Carpet' is known as 'heaven on earth’.