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  • Writer's pictureBlake Nursery

Eat Your Landscape

Updated: Oct 5, 2023

Creating a treasure trove of beautiful, bountiful fruiting plants in our yards is a joyful act, providing long-term pleasure. The ability to pluck and enjoy a handful of berries and other fruits as they ripen "on the vine" is sublime! Then there is no end to the pleasure derived from producing homegrown jelly, jam, wine, and cider. Besides our own enjoyment this produce makes a joyful gift to others. To be sure, expect homed in birds to arrive at harvest time to pressure us into rapid-pick mode, but in truth there's satisfaction in sharing a portionof the fruiting cornucopia with our feathered friends.

Here are some of our favorite, easy-to-grow fruiting shrubs for your edible landscape – many are Montana natives:

GOLDEN CURRANT, Ribes aureum: Multi-faceted, extremely hardy Montana native that's a blessing to nearly any landscape. A true harbinger of spring, this shrub burst into bloom early in the season. Its yellow flowers with spicy fragrance are followed by abundant fruit that turn a deep purplish-black when ripe. While somewhat tart when eaten fresh, these berries make excellent jam and jelly.

RED LAKE CURRANT, Ribes rubrum 'Red Lake': vigorous grower, produces large, sweet red berries; very hardy and productive; attracts birds - Cedar Waxwings gorge themselves annually on ours; makes fabulous red jelly. (4-6').

SERVICEBERRY, Amelanchier alnifolia: Montana native shrub that's one of the loveliest we grow. In early spring before leaves appear its white flowers make a delicate, airy display. Summer brings blueberry-like fruit that's sweet, juicy and coveted by birds and jelly-makers. In fall there's spectacular foliage – red-orange – you wish it would continue forever. When this flamboyant foliage is shed one sees the graceful form of these multi-stem plants. At Blake Nursery Serviceberry is available as a small tree or shrub. The popular cultivar 'Autumn Brilliance' has brilliant red fall foliage, while 'Regent', a small, sturdy shrub, has easy to harvest, abundant fruit.

GOOSEBERRY, Ribes 'Pixwell': This productive North Dakota State University introduction has few thorns and fruit is ripe in mid-summer when pink. Those familiar with this lesser known fruit covet it for jelly and pie.

CHOKEBERRY, Aronia melanocarpa: White flowers in spring followed by edible black berries in late summer. Berries are great for cooking and high in antioxidants. Birds also love the fruits. Foliage turns a brilliant red in the fall.

SILVER BUFFALOBERRY, Shepherdia argentea: Tough Montana native with distinctive silver foliage and abundant clusters of small red berries. Only female plants bear fruit, and since male and female are needed for pollination it's essential to plant several in somewhat close proximity. The berries make a somewhat tart, tasty and colorful jelly.

ELDERBERRY,Sambucus canadensis: Although there are Montana native Elderberries, we carry an extremely hardy and productive non-native cultivar, 'Adams'. This large shrub (8-10' tall and wide) displays large flat clusters of white spring flowers followed by glossy black fruit that's coveted for jelly and wine.

CHOKECHERRY, Prunus virginiana: For sure you won't be eating this puckery fruit freshly picked – it didn't get its name for nothing, but that doesn't diminish its value as a highly esteemed Montana native.Tough, robust and beautiful....plant where it can be admired for its lovely display of white blossoms, lustrous dark fruits that hang in long clusters, colorful fall foliage,and bold, suckering form. To collect fruits for jelly, wine, syrup and other purposes you've got to move fast against bird-flurry or you're out of luck. Be sure to try an accompaniment of this tart jelly with wild game meat, a chef's delight!

WESTERN SANDCHERRY, Prunus besseyi: This drought tolerant Montana native with delicate, showy spring flowers and silvery leaves followed by dark fruits is prized for jelly making and syrup.

HONEYBERRY, HASKAP BERRY, Lonicera caerulea: Elongated blue fruits can be eaten fresh, baked in pies, or made into jams and jellies. Super hardy and excellent source of antioxidants and Vitamin C. Best production when plant two different cultivars for cross pollination.

NANKING CHERRY, Prunus tomentosa: Tasty red fruits in mid-summer on an extremely hardy, pretty shrub. Good for jams, jellies and birds – who seem to love them!

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