Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

What has beautiful flowers, stunning colour & tasty fruits?

Vaccinum corymbosum

Seldom found in glasshouses or conservatories this compact shrub is near ideally suited. Although requiring lime free compost and rainwater this’s not much disadvantage as tub culture is so easy and allows the plants to be moved outdoors for those months when they’re dormant.

Beautiful flowers? Yes, like large white heather bells these bloom on for weeks. These are soon followed by quantities of blue berries, sweet and edible these are both tasty and incredibly nutritious.

And stunning colour? Yes, in Autumn and depending on variety, soil and situation the leaves burn with colour as if on fire.

So what is this incredible plant? Vaccinum corymbosum, the American Blueberry! See, I told you this was seldom thought of as a plant for under-cover but really is remarkably well suited. Remember they ‘expect’ a hot continental summer so kept moist they’re happy. This makes them useful for difficult positions where they can do admirably as long as they’re well watered.

In autumn the leaves colour and drop often with some berries still on, once picked clean the plants can go outdoors liberating space under cover for tender plants.

Vaccinum corymbosum, the American Blueberry!

Having spent winter outdoors bring in the tubs late winter or early spring. The change spurs the plants into earlier growth flowering from Easter and the berries start ripening a month or so after. Under-cover berries swell larger and are sweeter, and importantly are bird proof! Plus they ripen over a long period, and with several varieties you can eat fresh Blueberries June till October!

You might be able to start with seed but there are so many superior cultivars available. Buy two or three as although self-fertile these crop better when crossed. (They can be increased by division in Spring.) As noted use Ericaceous compost, in large tubs as big as possible, and only ever use rain-water with light feeding monthly in summer.

Little pruning is required, although taking out older worn out wood and leaving the young and vigorous may be done every few years. Not very prone to diseases nor to many pests do watch out for signs of Brown scale and Vine weevils.

As to varieties: Blauweiss-goldtraube, Jersey. Herbert and Chandler are most widely sold, two dozen available, even more in the USA.