Archive for blueberries

More Blueberry Heaven: Never-Fail Varieties for Portland Landscapes

Perfect Plumpness in Blueberry cluster Portland Garden Designer

Never-Fail Blueberry Varieties for Portland Gardens

A few more thoughts on choosing blueberry plants. Last time we discussed some basics for choosing blueberries. I give you a larger selection to consider and continue to encourage the purchase of big plants.

Here’s a list of blueberries we know will do well in Northwest Oregon and Southwest Washington State—and tickle your taste buds. The listings summarize variety name, maximum height, harvest time and fall color.

Blueberry Varieties for Portland Landscapes

  • Bluecrop, 6 feet, July, red leaf and stems, tall enough for a hedge
  • Spartan, 4 feet, July, hot orange fall color
  • Patriot, 5 feet, early July, hot orange fall color
  • Olympia, 4 feet, late July, light red fall color, tolerates clay
  • Sierra, 8 feet, August, light red winter twigs, great for privacy
  • Sunshine Blue, 3 feet, August, blue-green (evergreen)
  • Bountiful Blue, 3 feet, August, blue-green (evergreen)
  • Liberty, 8 feet, August/September, red-orange, privacy screen
  • Legacy, 6 feet, August/September, hot red-orange

Now that you have information about specific varieties, here are some more hints to help you choose wisely for your garden:

  • Think—and order—ahead. For example, ‘Sierra’ and ‘Liberty’ are still hard to find and might need to be ordered. Contact your favorite nursery in January to inquire about the varieties you want, so they have time to respond or include your request in their orders. Portland Nursery, Farmington Gardens or Cornell Farms will be glad to work with you.
  • Mail order.   One Green World  If you have fallen in love with the flavor of a particular variety of blueberry, be prepared to wait 5 years for a big crop since mail order typically means a small plant.
  • Buy the biggest plants you can afford.   One-gallon plants take too long to yield a decent crop, so splurge if you can and buy bigger plants. I talked with Jim at Portland Nursery about getting big blueberry plants. They get regular shipments of 5-gallon sized plants throughout the year.
  • Blueberry and Dragonfly in Portland Residential Garden - Landscape Design In A Day.Clients wish they had bought bigger plants.  My clients, Jim and Jodi, just bought a home and I completed our second Landscape Design in a Day. Six years ago (at their old house) they bought and planted 1-gallon blueberry plants. Although their then puppy contributed to the stunted growth, by chewing on the canes and peeing on them, he shouldn’t take all the blame. They moved just before they got a great crop. This time they are going to buy big blueberry plants to start with. Remember we are buying time when we buy a bigger plant.
  • Learn basic pruning. Pruning is an important part of being happy with your blueberries (and vice versa). It’s easy, and proper pruning will increase your yield dramatically. There are many good sources for learning the tricks. However, there is no substitute for having someone show you how, putting the pruners in your hands and having you do the pruning. That’s the best way because it sticks in both your mind and muscle-memory.
  • Two Videos.  Here are two videos to help you: OSU Extension Services     University of Maine Cooperative Extension

Yes, getting those berries into your cereal bowl requires time, patience and a bit of training. But, conjure up the fragrance or flavor of a memorable blueberry encounter, and you’ll agree that the effort is worth it. After all, growing blueberries is easy compared to many other fruit plants.

Next time we will look at some of the newest varieties of blueberry. If you are ready to design your Portland garden, contact me to set up an appointment.

Attention Blueberry Lovers: It’s time to plan ahead!

Attention Blueberry Lovers: It’s time to plan ahead!

If you’re like me, you can’t get enough blueberries. If you are thinking, “Hey! I could grow blueberries, they’re easy,” you’d be right!

Blueberry cluster Portland Landscape Design

Purchasing a large blueberry plant means you are buying time.

So now’s the time to take a minute to plan ahead for next season’s blueberry goodness.

Spartan blueberries are my absolute favorite for flavor. In the old days (10 years ago), when my client Diane in NE Portland,  ordered a Spartan blueberry, she got a little stick with roots on the end. She is a plucky gardener, but this was very discouraging, especially when someone stepped on the poor Spartan before it was big enough to defend itself.

Making the Tradeoff: Price Versus Instant Gratification

Buying a big plant is buying time. It’s easy to buy blueberry plants that are at least 30 inches tall and wide. Using Spartan blueberries as an example, you can spend about 40 percent more  for a one-or-two-year-old plant, but you’ll get that fruity deliciousness three years sooner.

Choosing the Right Variety

From March through July, Portland’s full-service nurseries offer plenty of nice, big plants and many varieties. Try these tips for the ultimate blueberry experience:

  • Don’t rush your choice. I can’t say enough about taking your time when selecting an edible. There are so many varieties to choose from, that it’s just plain smart to take your time. You are buying more than food, more than an  ornamental plant. You are buying memories as well as pleasure at the moment of harvest. My criteria for selecting a blueberry variety: totally delicious taste, convenient harvest time, plant sizes and shapes that are right for my garden, and gorgeous fall leaf color. Are you ready to pick out your favorite blueberry variety? If not, maybe this year will be about sampling berries at farmers markets and then buying your plant in the early fall.  What fun that will be!
  • Protect your plants. You won’t be the only one wanting blueberries. Birds and your dog will steal as much fruit as they can get away with. Be sure to leave lower branches for your dog to nibble on. If you use nets, check them often, or you will find little bird corpses tangled in the netting.
  • Think about the timing of the harvest. If you are always gone in July, select varieties that ripen in August.
  •  Buy companion varieties to maximize your crop. Remember to buy two
    different varieties that ripen at the same time. They flower at the same time, and the bumble bees can cross-pollinate the bushes to give you a better crop. Bumble bees vibrate the pollen off their feet and bodies from one flower to another and that is how they cross pollinate.  It’s primarily bumble bees that cross-pollinate blueberry plants.

    Dragon Fly visits blueberry plant in Lori's garden

    Dragonfly on green blueberry cluster-another great reason to shun pesticides in your garden. Photo from my client Lori Aveling.

    Don’t use pesticides on any plants because they harm and kill the bees.  Blueberry plants don’t have many pest problems.

  • Consider the newer evergreen varieties for the front yard. For example, ‘Sunshine Blue is a variety that local edibles expert Vern Nelson and I really like. ‘Sunshine Blue’ is evergreen, so the leaves stay on the bush year round and it’s small, say 3 by 3 feet. This way, you can have edibles in the front yard without going totally  “Urban Homestead”. (Portland has many new landscapes that are  completely given over to growing edibles. It’s an exciting, fun idea but not for everyone.)

Next time: More about blueberries, specifically a chart of never-fail varieties.

Easy Edible Plants: Blueberries

Blueberries very easy edible plants. Blueberries are great for your brain. Did I mention easy? Once your plants are established, the trick to growing blueberries is proper pruning. We want to encourage new growth and to do that, we have to remove some of the old growth. This is a great thing to do together on a garden coach appointment. Do mulch around your plant periodically with coffee grounds to increase acidity in the soil (any time of year works for this – you could do it up to ten times per year! ) Don’t use peat moss even if other experts say to do it.