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Vermont Garden Journal: Ornamental Edibles

05/13/11 4:00PM
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The Siberian Honeyberry

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Charlie introduces us to a hardy variety of honeysuckle that produces delicious berries.

Under the names 'Blue Forest', 'Blue Sky' 'Blue Berry','Blue Belle', and 'Blue Velvet' the Siberian honeyberry is available in greenhouses and nurseries.

Tune in Friday evening and Saturday  morning for more details on this underdog of ornamentals and tips for planting success.

There are varieties of many shrubs and trees normally thought of as ornamentals that also produce great fruits for eating. The service berry, that's blooming now, has a selection called the saskatoon that produces shorter plants with tasty, blueberry-sized fruits. Another ornamental edible that I'm going to try is the honeyberry.

Honeyberies are in the honeysuckle family. They're native to Russia and Japan, widely adapted, easy to grow, pest free, and hardy to zone 3. The shrub grows 3- to 7-feet tall and wide with white flowers in spring and elongated blue fruits that ripen two weeks before strawberries. Unlike some honeysuckles, this one is not invasive.

There are a number of different varieties already available. 'Blue Forest' and 'Blue Sky' grow 3- to 4-feet tall and wide making beautiful foundation plants. Taller varieties, such as 'Blue Berry' and 'Blue Belle', can grow 7- to 8-feet tall and wide and make an excellent hedge. Since honeyberries flower so early, in our climate it's best to select late blooming varieties, such as 'Kamchatka' and 'Blue Velvet' that flower when pollinating insects are active and frost are finished. Plant at least two different varieties to get the most fruit.

Although they grow best in full sun on well drained soils, honeyberries are adapted to part shade and moist clay soils. Space plants 5- to 6-feet apart and mulch. Like blueberries, honeyberries have shallow roots and benefit from a constant organic mulch cover to keep the roots cool and moist.

Eat honeyberries fresh (they may be a little tart if not allowed to ripen fully on the bush) or use them in pies, cakes, muffins, jams, and jellies.

Now for this week's tip, watch out for the red lily leaf adult beetle emerging now as your bulb lilies start growing. Handpick the adults and spray Spinosad or Neem on the slug-like larvae found on the leaves.

Next week on the Vermont Garden Journal, I'll be talking about red hot chili peppers. For now, I'll be seeing you in the garden!


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