With British juniper plant numbers falling, west London's very own gin hotel is encouraging gin enthusiasts to get green-fingered in an attempt to help preserve the plant.
Any enthusiast of the spirit will know juniper is a key ingredient in gin , but it appears our beloved beverage could be under threat as the plant has suffered a sharp decline in Britain since 2004.
Research on Scottish juniper by the woodland conservation charity Plantlife has found young juniper plants and seedlings are in a minority as disease is killing off the plants, and old, dead types of the plant are too high in number.
Other reasons said to be behind the decline include a low economic and cultural value of the plant, compared to in the past, alongside poor recovery of remnant populations. This is because pollination of isolated bushes can be difficult as juniper has separate male and female plants.
Notting Hill 's Portobello Road Gin to the rescue.
"We want to help get the foundation of the nation’s favourite spirit back on track"
"Juniper is a hardy plant, however the British contingent has taken somewhat of a beating in recent years, encountering a number of problems including disease & fragmented populations," says Portobello Road Gin’s brand director, Tom Coates.
He added: "We want to help get the foundation of the nation’s favourite spirit back on track and while most brands - including Portobello Road Gin - do not use British juniper in their spirit, as passionate gin-educators, safe-guarding our nation’s beloved juniper plant is very important to us."
The brand, which is behind Notting Hill's gin hotel, The Distillery, is giving away free juniper saplings to each gin lover that purchases a 75cl limited edition gift-wrapped bottle this summer, to encourage gin lovers to grow their own juniper at home.
Teaming up with gardening expert and author of ‘How to Grow Stuff’, Alice Vincent, advice is being provided to aspiring juniper growers.
Alice Vincent said: "As modern life gets ever faster our desire to slow down, escape our screens and reconnect with nature just gets stronger.
"Growing stuff is a great way to switch off and get outdoors, and juniper is an easy, tolerant plant to inspire green fingers.
"Whether you've been gardening for a while or are a complete beginner, we're calling for gin fans to get out in the garden and to help preserve the future of our nation’s favourite tipple!"
How do I grow juniper?
Alice has provided a few top tips on how to grow juniper:
- Ensure the soil is well-draining to ensure the plant grows in a wide range of tempertures. First-timers, or self-proclaimed plant killers will be glad to hear, once planted, there is not much TLC required.
- It can be planted all year round.
- The plant can be grown in a large pot or in the garden, just make sure there are no weeds or other plants in the same area.
- Dig a hole in the compost, double the size of the rootball, and tease out the roots of the plant before popping the ball into the compost hole.
- Give the plant a good drink of water.
- During the first two weeks, the plant will need watering two to three times a week, then leave it alone.
- Wait for the plant to start producing the key gin ingredient - juniper berries!
Once planted, each bush could live to the grand old age of 170!
And once the bushes have harvested their first berries, growers are encouraged to send them in to The Distillery, where they will be used in the copper still to make a unique British juniper distillate, which growers will be able to use to make their own unique bottle of gin.
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