The Juniper Collection consists of seven beds at the base of the Pagoda to its east side and a large area of grass to its south-east. The collection itself is relatively new. Originally the site was host to a collection of clambering roses, but with the developments of many parts of the garden for Kew's bicentennial celebration in 1959, it was decided to develop the site and in 1958 the rose collection gave way to the Heather Garden containing 20,000 plants. Many junipers and other conifers were planted with the collection of heather for display. The heather garden remained on the site for 34 years until 1993, when it was replaced by the current collection of junipers adding to those already on the site. The collection consists of both prostrate and upright species of juniper (Juniperus). Low-growing spreading species are mostly planted in the beds while the taller species are planted in the long grass areas. To the east of the Pagoda an alley of tall species of juniper is under development to lead from the main path to the Pagoda.
The entire collection of juniper at Kew and Wakehurst Place consists of 288 plants. The juniper garden at Kew is a small but representative collection of junipers containing 60 species and cultivars. The junipers in the collection represent a large range of forms and colours, from low-growing species such as Juniperus sabina and tall, conical species such as Juniperus communis forma suecicia.
As you walk through the collection the path dips into a hollow with the beds higher on either side of the path. In addition there are many other plants amongst the junipers: some of the heathers remain, such as Erica x vetchii "Gold Tips" which are located in the centre of many of the beds. These may reaching a height of 2.5m and provide a dark green backdrop for the borders. Erica "Albert's Gold" provides a brilliant foliage display of golden yellow. Other plants such as the strawberry tree (Arbutus) provides evergreen foliage and bright red fruit in the spring. The area also contains a large Atlantic cedar (Cedrus atlantic) with its blue-green foliage, and several birch (Betula pedula) with their white bark and pendulous growth habit.
The Juniper Collection provides all-year interest with its variety of evergreen plants with interesting foliage colours and growth habit. Juniper is one of only three conifers native to Britain - the others are Scots pine and yew. The common juniper, Juniperus communis, forms dominant scrub in limestone and shale areas of Britain. Junipers have the widest distribution of any conifer, occurring throughout the Northern Hemisphere from the mountains of the African tropics to the Arctic Circle.
Although some species are poisonous, juniper plants have many traditional uses. The berries are used to flavour gin and are valued for their use in aromatic oils and cosmetics. The foliage may also be dried and burned in order to cure meats.
Junipers require low pollution levels and fertile, free-draining soil for best growth. They also prefer a sheltered area away from wind, which can damage the shape of the plants. The bulk of our collection is at Wakehurst Place, where the growing conditions are more favourable for the majority of junipers, but although the juniper collection at Kew is smaller than that at Wakehurst Place, it still provides a representative collection of species for public display.