This weekly column is being reproduced with the permission of Steve Smith, The Whistling Gardener, and owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville.
There is a new breed of berries on the market that can offer the home gardener not only great tasting fruit but attractive and functional landscape shrubbery at the same time.
Fall Creek Farm and Nursery in Oregon has bred a series of blueberries and one raspberry that are ideal for our smaller landscapes and container gardens.
Here is a sampling of what they are currently offering:
Raspberry Shortcake—this is a wonderful dwarf raspberry that only grows to three feet tall and produces full sized fruit in mid-summer. It is also thornless which makes it well-suited for children.
Plant it in full sun either in a large container or in the garden where it will spread slowly and is easily controlled (unlike traditional raspberries).
Peach Sorbet—this is a dwarf blueberry that only grows one and a half to two feet tall. It is evergreen in our mild winters but will defoliate if we get a nasty cold snap.
New growth is an attractive mix of peach, lime and dark blue-green while fall and winter colors are a dark purple with pink buds and stems. Medium sized sweet berries ripen in July. Use this plant in containers or as a hedge or just mixed into the landscape here and there.
Jelly Bean—this is a little puffball of a blueberry growing only one to two feet tall. Foliage is a bright green during the growing season turning to a rich green with red margins in the fall and winter. The berries are sweet and medium to large. Jelly Bean is well suited for containers or a mini-hedge.
Blueberry Glaze—this blueberry introduction sports glossy foliage that resembles a boxwood only with delicious bluish-black fruit in July. Dense mounding foliage is glossy dark green in summer turning to deep burgundy in winter and tops out at two to three feet tall. The berries are smaller and more closely resemble our native evergreen blueberry.
Pink Icing—the newest of the Brazel Berry collection, Pink Icing resembles Peach Sorbet only flashier and taller reaching three to four feet tall. Spring foliage has varying shades of pink, blue and dark green while winter leaves are an iridescent turquoise blue. Pink Icing will dress up any landscape while simultaneously producing a summer crop of large sweet blueberries.
All of the above varieties are easy to grow in our northwest climate where they enjoy the same conditions as rhododendrons. Rich organic soil, good drainage, acid fertilizer and adequate summer water is all it takes to make them happy.
Now is the perfect time to plant them too and you should be able to find them in the garden center alongside their strawberries, currants, gooseberries, blackberries, grapes and other small fruits.
Remember, fruit producing shrubs or even vines like grapes and kiwis don’t have to be relegated to the edible garden part of the yard. These new varieties have attractive qualities that lend themselves well to incorporation into the ornamental part of our landscapes.
For a more in-depth discussion on how to grow berries including pruning, insect and disease control and varietal choices (there are lots of other varieties in addition to Brazel Berries) plan on attending our free “Bountiful Berries” class Saturday, February 7, 2015, at 10 am here at the nursery.
Steve Smith is owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached online at firstname.lastname@example.org.