Berried Treasure

Native berry species have great potential and should be used more frequently in our gardens.

It was good to see the range of berry crops that Sheena Adams mentions in her article in the Winter 2008 issue of GardenWise.

The native species have great potential and should be used more frequently in our gardens, both as sources of fruit and for ornamental purposes. Regarding suitable varieties of some of the other species cited, I have a few more suggestions. Some of these are relatively new and may not yet be available in local plant centres. Beginning with strawberries, ‘Totem’ is probably the best June-bearing variety for the Coast and most of the southern Interior. It has been dominant in the Pacific Northwest for more than 30 years and, compared to other varieties, has greater resistance or tolerance to red stele root rot, viruses and damage from low winter temperatures.

Moreover, the fruit has that quintessential strawberry flavour. The article mentions ‘Kent’, which is a good variety but is better adapted to Eastern Canada than to the Pacific Northwest. Besides ‘Totem’, three newer varieties, ‘Puget Reliance’, ‘Tillamook’ and ‘Stolo’, are adapted to the Coast and worth trying. ‘Tristar’ is a good choice for a day neutral and the newer ‘Albion’ is promising. The best summer-fruiting raspberry is ‘Tulameen’, probably the leading fresh market variety wherever raspberries are grown. ‘Chemainus’ and ‘Saanich’ are newer and each produces high-quality fruit comparable in flavour to ‘Tulameen’. The fruit of ‘Meeker’ is well suited for processing but does not have as good a flavour as ‘Tulameen’. ‘Heritage’ is definitely not recommended as a fall-fruiting variety for B.C. It ripens too late to obtain maximum yield; a much better choice is the earlier ripening ‘Autumn Bliss’.

Other earlier ripening fall-fruiting varieties are ‘Caroline’, ‘Dinkum’, ‘Chinook’ and ‘Summit’. Most of the so-called hybrid berries (boysenberry, loganberry, marionberry) are not particularly winter hardy and are best adapted to southern Vancouver Island or the Vancouver area.

Another hybrid is tayberry, which may be more winter hardy than the ones mentioned and has gained popularity because of its unique flavour. My favourite blackberry is ‘Loch Ness’, which, like ‘Waldo’, is early ripening and thornless but usually produces higher yields. ‘Triple Crown’ is another thornless variety; it ripens later and has good fruit quality. There are a lot of blueberry varieties available and the ones mentioned in the article are fine. Several others worth considering include ‘Earliblue’, ‘Northland’, ‘Chippewa’, ‘Bluecrop’, (still the world’s most popular variety) and ‘Elliott’, a late-ripening variety that extends the season. Hugh Daubeny is a top expert on berry fruits and a research scientist emeritus with Agriculture Canada’s Pacific Agriculture Research Centre, where he spent 35 years developing strawberry and raspberry breeding programs.