By Dr Zoltan Hamori & Madeleine Hamori-Kovacs, Jurassicplants Nurseries
Did you know that certain rarely offered shrubs will put on a majestic display of flowers in Autumn, Winter or Spring , yet their fruits will fully develop in as little as one or two month after flowering and many can be considered as superfruit?
We have put together a selection of some of the more strange and unusual species which don’t follow the normal seasonal pattern when it comes to ripening their fruits, but will offer a plentiful harvest as early as February. Let’s introduce some of them to you and why not give them a try yourself!
Lonicera harae – Raspberry Honeysuckle
Unknown in Britain until introduced by ourselves to the UK last year, this is a superb early fruit, suitable for most gardens. We named it Raspberry Honeysuckle. This hairy shrub will provide a scented winter flower display in February, followed by smooth red jellybean-like berries in May and June. They are similar in size to a raspberry and can be enjoyed straight from the plant. The hairy stems and leaves with their bluish colour develop into an arching form, not taller than 1.5m. The drought tolerant Raspberry Honeysuckle is best to be planted in partial shade or full shade. It can withstand temperatures as low as -25c and has unique autumn colours with a beautiful yellow-bronze pattern.
Elaeagnus multiflora – Cherry Silverberry
A superb, compact shrub, which is much underrated! It features dark green simple leaves and scented yellow flowers in April, quickly followed by red juicy berries produced in the thousands on one a single shrub in a good year, but even hundreds in a bad year. The fruit is about 2cm long and 1cm wide. It has a very nice sweet flavour when fully ripe. It can be harvested as early as late May! The plant itself is 1 to 2m tall and can also be grown in a large pot.
Elaeagnus x ebbingei - Oleaster
Also called Silverberry, referring to the intricate silver pattern of raised fingerprint-like markings on the fruit. This species is evergreen and will flower in October to November, with the light yellow, scented flowers grouped in two’s and three’s. If you have a sheltered hot spot, the young fruits will develop into tasty berries by as early as February, and you can expect to harvest the fruits in the hundreds from one shrub. More vigorous than E multiflora, it can reach 2-3m in height and 1-2 m in width, but it is very much drought tolerant and won’t mind a seaside location either.
Myrceugenia chrysocarpa – Luma Blanca, Pitrilla
Myrceugenia is not well known to gardeners, but has huge potential with their showy flowers and edible fruits, plus they are shade loving. An evergreen shrub, mainly native to South America, many species are suitable for small gardens and hardy enough to overwinter outdoors. Myrceugenia chrysocarpa has beautiful long stamened white flowers, similar to the Luma, but larger, up to an inch in diameter and flowers in Autumn against a great backdrop of myrtle-like dark foliage. The pea sized juicy berries ripen to an orange colour and contain one or two soft seeds, but all of the fruit is edible. Hardy down to an incredible -15C with snow, the plant is very bushy, with an ultimate height of 2m.
Eriobotrya japonica – Japanese Medlar
Not related to the Common Medlar, however this architectural bushy evergreen tree also has thick-like, up to 25cm long leaves. It has the advantage of being both drought and cold tolerant, down to -15C, and is also not fussy about soil conditions and can even be grown in coastal locations or on the patio in a large pot. In the middle of Winter the scented, white flowers appear in terminal racemes, followed by numerous, small apricot sized orange coloured fruits which mature by late May or early June provided the plant is in a hot sheltered position in cities or coastal gardens or in a conservatory.
Prunus incisa and Prunus tomentosa – Fuji Cherry and Nanking Cherry
Rarely offered as main species, yet the best wild cherries from the Far-East which will flower and fruit freely in pots and remain shrubby. Masses of white flowers cover the branches in March, before the toothed leaves appear, quickly followed by small cherries, maturing to black (P incisa) or red (P tomentosa) by mid-May! Tasty Spring fruits.
Rubus phoenicolasius – Chinese Wineberry
Originates from China, this bramble species won’t grow taller than 1m and will form an arching, dense shrub. It is thorny, but that inconvenience is easily compensated by masses of raspberry-like, deep orange berries which weigh down the branch endings near to ground level. An individual inflorescence can comprise of up to 30-40 flowers and shortly after, the fruits can be harvested from mid-June continuously to September. We just call it the Raspberry Bramble. It can be trained to a fence or palisade, prefers a heavier soil and won’t mind lots of rain.
Amelanchier lamarckii – Apple Serviceberry
A very showy shrub which produces a bronze coloured hue on the young stems and leaves, whilst at the same time, white flowers appear on almost bare branches of the 2 to 3m tall shrub. Small, dark blue berries quickly follow, then ripen from mid-June and are full of antioxidants. Even a potted plant on the patio will fruit abundantly!
We hope that the above selection of superfruits will entice you to take up the challenge to grow these weird and wonderful plants.
Zoltan and Madeleine will have lots of spring superfruiting plants at many of our plant fairs
Jurassicplants Nurseries are happy to bring orders to fairs.
Text: copyright Jurassicplants Nurseries, Images: copyright Jurassicplants Nurseries except where noted.