TRY A DIFFERENT BERRY
Plant breeders are always coming up with some new form of plant by experimenting with cross pollinating one type of plant with another. It is fun to try out something new or different and it always creates an interesting talking point for those with an interest in gardening. There is a wide range of new types of fruiting bushes available as well as improved forms of all our standard varieties.
Blackcurrant breeding has been going on at the James Hutton Institute for a long time creating the “Ben” series with my favourite being Ben Conan with huge fruits. However breeders have now created a blackcurrant with an even bigger and sweeter berry called Big Ben that may well temp us to eat it fresh from the punnet like a strawberry.
My Big Ben blackcurrant bush had a very small crop this summer, but not enough to judge.
Gooseberries are also being improved with mildew resistance now normal, and thornless types to make picking easier coming soon.
Raspberries have had a lot of attention with new types of autumn fruiting varieties such as Joan J, Autumn Treasure and Polka claimed to have massive sized berries. I am trying Polka but so far it is no bigger than Autumn Bliss though I need a few more seasons to assess it.
Blackberries have also had the attention of the breeders, initially interested in creating thornless types. This is now normal but interest now involves primocane types to fruit on canes grown the same year. The new variety of primocane blackberry Reuben is said to have immense sized fruit ripening from September to November.
Worcesterberries are a cross between a blackcurrant and a gooseberry. The medium sized fruit is very sweet and tasty but the bushes which can grow quite tall have vicious thorns.
Jostaberry is another similar cross with black coloured fruit tasting and looking like both gooseberry and blackcurrants. It grows up to two metres tall and the fruit is easier to pick as the bush is thornless.
Honeyberries are a medium sized, hardy, deciduous shrub. This blue fruiting honeysuckle is relatively easy to grow but it flowers very early in the year when there are very few pollinating insects around so hand pollination may be necessary to achieve a crop.
Goji or Wolfberry has been grown in vast acreages on the fertile floodplains of the Yellow River in China for hundreds of years. Unsubstantiated health benefit claims created a huge demand for the fruit. It is a vigorous deciduous rambling shrub which will eventually produce orange fruits. I have tried unsuccessfully to get several of these to fruit over the last six years but with no success. However my rampant bushes ten foot tall did not survive the mild winter, though this might be an infection of the root rot phytophthora, which I seem to be plagued with.
Japanese wineberry is a type of ornamental raspberry. It grows and fruits like the raspberry having delicious sweet fruits, but is not common. It is quite attractive in winter with its bright red stems.
Saskatoons, also known as Juneberry is the fruiting form of the Amelanchier and native to North America. They are very hardy and easy to grow. The fruit is similar to the blueberry, but fruits at the end of July while the blueberry fruits in August to September. Saskatoons are eaten fresh in season or can be frozen for use later in jams, compote, cakes and brews into a brilliant wine.
Plant of the week
Day Lily (Hemerocallis) is an herbaceous perennial flowering from spring to late summer depending on type. It has been extensively bred to produce every colour except blue and pure white. Some types are scented. They like most well drained soils and will tolerate dry conditions and to get the best flowers give them a place in full sun.