Top notch London distillers, Portobello Road Gin, have come up with a gintastic scheme to boost Britain’s declining juniper – they’re encouraging gardeners to grow their own juniper trees and send the berries to the distillery to turn into bespoke booze. To get the campaign up and running they’re sending out juniper saplings with purchases of a 75cl limited edition bottle from Waitrose this summer.
Being keen booze-growing gardeners we’ve been asked to help promote their efforts and have got our gloved mitts on one of their saplings. They’ve also handily sent out some juniper growing instructions, put together by ace gardening author and journalist Alice Vincent, which we’ve published below. We’ve gone for the ‘grow it in a large pot’ option, which will soon be the centerpiece of our new gin garden. The pot in question is a rather splendid charcoal fibreglass piece which, at a capacity of 40cm cubed, should give ample room for growth over the next few years.
We’ve sprinkled a layer of wood chippings on the surface of the compost to make it look tidy and make it feel more like it’s in a Scandinavian woodland setting, and less in a scruffy garden in Somerset. It has been in its new home for over a week and already looks like it’s in for the duration (ie not gone brown and crispy just yet).
And while we’re keen that our new tree will help us get in with the gin crowd, there are other boozes we’ll be looking to make with a bumper juniper harvest. Our book, Brew it Yourself, has a few recipes requiring juniper, including a Viking inspired rye ale, while Rich has been guzzling a top notch juniper liqueur and is desperately trying to deconstruct it in order to make his own version.*
How to grow juniper trees from a sapling
Alice Vincent’s top tips
1 Make sure the soil is well-draining to ensure your juniper grows well in a wide range of temperatures. Junipers are really hardy and great for beginners so once you’ve planted it there’s not much TLC required.
2 The juniper sapling provided is a plug plant, which means it comes with its ready to go in compost. You can plant it all year round.
3 You can grow Junipers in a large plant pot or in your garden. Make sure the area is free of weeds and other plants.
4 Dig a hole about double the size of the rootball and surrounding compost, and gently tease out the roots.
5 Pop the rootball into the hole and gently pat the soil around it. Give it a good drink of water.
6 For the first two weeks, water your Juniper two to three times a week. Then let it be – if it gets too wet, it won’t be happy!
7 Little further cultivation should be required. Wait for the plant to start producing the wonderful Juniper berry!
Get your limited edition gin from Waitrose or order your own juniper sapling from Portobello Gin’s website www.portobelloroadgin.com
Our fibreglass planter came from planters-online.co.uk
*Junique, a white wine/juniper liqueur – well worth seeking out if you have a penchant for juniper. And wine. Tastes amazing over ice. Get some here.