The Pacific Northwest has an ideal climate to grow all sorts of berries, from strawberries and blue berries to black berries and raspberries and 2016 once again is bringing gardeners several new flavors to choose from. Here are my picks for this year.
'PERPETUA' BLUEBERRY: From Fall Creek Farm & Nursery in Oregon who has brought us 'Raspberry Shortcake' dwarf raspberry, 'Peach Sorbet', 'Jelly Bean', 'Blueberry Glaze' and 'Pink Icing' dwarf blueberries comes their latest creation, 'Perpetua' blueberry, a true double-cropping blueberry. Gardeners will enjoy a tasty harvest of berries in mid-summer and then a second crop in the fall on a compact plant with dark green glossy leaves that turn deep red in the fall and canes that are bright red and yellow in the winter. 'Perpetua' is both an attractive landscape plant and a wonderful addition to our edible gardens. No longer are we limited to eating fresh blueberries only in July and August.
'PINK POPCORN' BLUEBERRY: Introduced by Briggs Nursery in Elma Washington, 'Pink Popcorn' is somewhat of a novelty blueberry in that the skin is pink but the flavor and aroma are typical of blueberries. 'Pink Popcorn' is an improvement over 'Pink Lemonade' (introduced a few years back) in that it is a more compact plant with a tidier growth habit. Try to visualize a fruit bowl of pink and blue blueberries along with some honeydew melon on a warm summer day and I think you would agree, this variety is a must for gardeners. Martha Stewart would surely approve.
'LOCH NESS' BLACKBERRY: Admittedly, blackberries can be a hard sell in the northwest where they are growing wild all over the place. This variety out of Scotland will change your mind instantly. Try to imagine a blackberry with short stalky canes that don't ramble all over the garden and are thornless. Yes, I said thornless and easy to manage. 'Loch Ness' is a well behaved blackberry that will produce a delicious crop of large black berries over several weeks, if not months, so you will be able to harvest enough berries every few days to put on your Wheaties for most of the summer. It just doesn't get any better than that.
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 can find them here in the nursery next to the 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 the above mentioned flavors) plan on attending our free 'Bountiful Berries' class this Saturday, February 6th at 10 am here at the nursery. Visit our website for more information and to sign up. See you there!