Here we are just days before Christmas, and you may still be looking for some last-minute gifts to give the gardener in your life or in your circle of friends. In a world of plastic, bling and technology, there are some real things that are wonderful. Since food gardening has topped the pop charts these days in terms of relevancy, high cost and importance, here are a few suggestions.
I love the new brazelberry line of small fruits created for growing in containers or gardens. You simply plant and enjoy the same year. The first introduction in 2012 was a dwarf thornless raspberry shrub called Raspberry Shortcake. We’ve watched it for a couple of years now and when planted in a large container and fed or planted in the ground, as well as being cut back by half in early spring, it produces delicious good-sized raspberries in waves throughout the summer just like traditional everbearing raspberries.
A couple years ago, one of the best dwarf blueberries, called Perpetua, was introduced. It lives up to its name. It starts producing early and still has fruit on it now. It’s happiest planted in the ground but is also sweet and tasty when grown in containers.
Figs have really jumped in popularity because of their delicious flavour. Desert King, a large green variety, and Brown Turkey are among the best figs for growing on the Lower Mainland. There are lots of other great varieties too. Planted this winter, they will be producing in a year or two.
Many small fruits are the best nutritional antioxidants – far better than supplements according to health researchers. Why not give your favourite gardener the very best antioxidant, the new extra sweet goji berry called Sweet Lifeberry? It’s pretty amazing.
The new cranberry, a fabulous ground cover or trailing container plant called Low Hugger, is right up there too. In Europe, the lingonberry is much in demand because of its beauty as a garden plant, and its fruits are hugely delicious antioxidants as well. Our native evergreen huckleberry Thunderbird, introduced by the UBC Botanical Garden, is no slouch either, producing delicious and healthy black fruits all winter long.
Persimmons have truly become the new ‘hot’ fruit, and as long as they have lots of sun, they will ripen in mid-November with large, non-stringent fruits. Fuyu, Izu and Matsumoto are some of the great flavourful varieties.
Mulberries, too, have surged in popularity. They’re a very clean tree that produces large, tasty fruits. The one called Pakistan is one of the promising varieties for our area.
For something really different, the Flying Dragon citrus (Poncirus trifoliata) is a true novelty. Hardy to -20C, it needs a sunny location, but will produce large, round tart fruits in just a few years.
If you don’t have chestnuts roasting by your fireside, there’s a delightful Chinese nut that is easy to grow and does well here. Castanea mollissima is the true edible chestnut, and yes, the trees are readily available.
Any of these plants would make wonderful gifts that folks can enjoy in their gardens and have healthy, nutritious and delicious fruits for years to come.