The Juniper is a very hardy coniferous evergreen tree. The small purple berries/fruits which may be used in cooking, medicine or rituals. The berries are in fact tiny fleshy cones. They can be crushed and ground for use, as you would do with a peppercorn, as well as pressed for any juice. More latterly the berries are used as a flavouring in gin.
The trunks of Junipers are often naturally contorted and twisted thus lending themselves beautifully to the art of bonsai. The leaves take the form of needles of a deep green colour sometimes with a bluish-tinge. Hence it is often known in folk tradition as the needle yew. The berries usually take two to three years to fully ripen, so it is common to see both the bluish-black ripe berries alongside very green and under-ripe ones on the same bush. When fully ripe, the berries are about the size of a pea and have an aromatic resiny scent which is fresh and woody. You will often find the berries used in the perfume industry.
In short the attributes of the Juniper tree are numerous. It is is a much-loved evergreen that brightens up the winter months. They make awesome bonsai due to their beautiful and naturally artistic structure, evergreen needles, purple berries and flaky red bark and fresh fragrance. They prefer to grow on the drier side so are easier to care for and thrive in full sun.
Mythology and symbolism
In some areas, juniper is considered to be a deterrent against the Devil and witches. It was hung over doorways on the eve of May Day and burnt on Halloween to ward off evil spirits. It was said that you would prosper if you dreamed of gathering juniper berries in winter, and the berries themselves signified honour or the birth of a boy.
- Purification – In many cultures, the presence of a Juniper tree represents the cleansing and purification of those around it.
- Protection – The Juniper tree is a symbol of protection and is known to ward off evil spirits.
- Power – The Juniper tree is a symbol of power and strength. It represents the ability to overcome life’s challenges which we feel makes this bonsai a sensational gift.
If you are struggling to choice a bonsai and fancy a touch of the Mr Miyagi then you simply cannot go wrong with the all time favourite – the Chinese Juniper (Juniperus chinensis)