Conversation at the Tatler’s Waste-Bin, which had been of a general and easy nature, turned suddenly to juniper, and at a stroke Captain Ken and Mr Honey found themselves in opposition.
The Captain, known always for asking what a thing is for, was prepared to celebrate juniper as a plant well-known to be excellent for carving and turning. Mr Honey then asked him about the gin, and wondered why juniper was so little planted – could this have been an inheritance of the 17th century puritans? – and indeed I found myself in sympathy with the root of his question. What a fine plant is the juniper, how long-suffering, and how fine in form!
Finding myself prompted as it were, by Mr Honey’s intervention, I fetched him a G & T from the bar and proceeded to intercede on my own account with those little erect conifers in William Mason’s garden at Nuneham – were they not Swedish juniper? Were they not the poles from which he hung the nets that kept the sheep off his flowers? Were they not the poles of his washing-lines (note 70)?
Captain Ken retorted that he could not be bothered with the evidence either one way or the other. The fact was that juniper made a fine and useful tree and therefore would have been frequently planted. Mr Honey that all that is well and good but juniper only really came into its own as an edging plant (he referred to the savin, J. Sabinus), and then not until the 19th century.
As for me, I applaud the juniper and find myself surprised by the lack of evidence for its use in the 18th century. You will find me with the fox and you will find me with the hounds, siding now with Captain Ken and now with Mr Honey.