Vermont Garden Journal: The Honeyberry

Mar 6, 2015

I'm a bit of a fruit freak. While others travel to exotic climes to enjoy the scenery, beaches and culture, I'm always looking for the fresh food markets to taste durians, dragon fruit and cherimoyas. While these sound exotic, we actually can grow some cool, unusual fruits in our climate too. One of my latest discovering is the honeyberry.

The honeyberry or Lonicera caerulea, is a native of Siberian and Japan. In Russia it's called the zhimolost and Japan, haskap. Honeyberry is known for its extreme hardiness. Some varieties have been developed at the University of Saskatchewan so you know they are tough! The tasty berries have a flavor that's hard to describe. I'd say it tastes like a cross between a wild blueberry and blackberry. The oblong, 1-inch long berries grow on a 3 to 7 foot tall shrubs that don't sucker readily. I also haven't heard of any reports about the seeds being invasive like other honeysuckle species. It fruits a few weeks before strawberries so is a great early summer treat.

To get started you'll need at least two different varieties for cross pollination. I'm growing 'Blue Moon' and 'Blue Velvet', but there are many other varieties available to try. The plants grow in full sun to part shade on a variety of soils. Good water drainage is always best. They fruit on one year old wood. I actually had berries to taste one year after planting, but it may take up to 3 to 4 years for the plant to hit full production. They have few pests and diseases, but birds like the berries so you may need to cover them when ripening.

And now for this week's tip, as the days get longer it's a good time to repot houseplants. Remove the potting soil from around the roots. Prune off dead and crowded roots. Clean  the pot with a 10% bleach solution to remove fertilizer salt build up. Repot with fresh potting soil and water well.

Next week on the Vermont Garden Journal, I'll be talking about wisteria. Until then, I'll be seeing you in the garden.

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Broadcast on Friday, March 6, 2015 at 5:57 p.m. and Sunday, March 8, 2015 at 9:35 a.m.

The Vermont Garden Journal with Charlie Nardozzi is made possible by Gardener's Supply, offering environmental solutions for gardens and landscapes. In Burlington, Williston and Gardeners.com.