Introducing some ugly plants

A needly cowpat. I hope that this ugly plant will some day earn its keep by providing juniper berries for black grouse.

Juniper is a word that seems to apply to many different kinds of evergreen conifer. When I first decided that I wanted some juniper on the Chayne, I flicked through my “observer’s book of trees” for some more information on the subject. I found an illustration of a juniper tree, but I wasn’t at all impressed with its unattractive ‘garden centre’ style cylindrical shape. If that was what juniper looked like, it would stand out like a sore thumb on the Chayne. I was set to give up on juniper altogether when I noticed a sub species of the plant called juniperus communis “green carpet”, a woody, heather like shrub that never grows higher than a few inches off the ground and prefers instead to extend its tendrils like a slowly expanding cowpat.

I dashed to the garden centre in search of some of this “green carpet” to plant in my livestock-free heather laboratory, and when I told the shop assistant what I was looking for, I was underwhelmed to find two black plastic pots dumped on the counter before me. They looked deeply unappealing. It was as if the pots had recently eaten pine trees and vomited them up again, spraying needles and gnarled bark on themselves without a care. I was informed that, in two or three years time, I can begin to expect my first berries.

I drove home quite happily with my hideous new pot plants, made myself a cup of tea and settled in to read the papers. It turns out that a shooting estate in Aberdeenshire has become a modern day Lost World by unknowingly having been home to two species of fly that were thought to have been extinct in Great Britain since the nineteen twenties. Black grouse numbers were healthy there, and the article’s author mentioned the vital importance of juniper berries to the birds. There was a photograph of some balding researcher for Scottish Natural Heritage standing beside a huge juniper tree, and I must say that it didn’t look that bad. Perhaps juniper trees are a bullet that I just have to bite. I could plant a stand of them in a remote corner of the farm where nobody will ever see them…

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