Good friend and fellow gardener Joe Hillberry pointed out the obvious to me when we were talking about the sea buckthorn juice and other weird — or at least unfamiliar — fruits.
“Check around you,” Joe said. “It’s easy to find wild honeysuckle doing well here. Like its honeysuckle parent, the honeyberry is ripe in early June and is wonderful fresh, as juice, jelly or wine.
Look along the creek beds for the wild clove currants. Wild currants are good indicators the domesticated black, red and white currants will also grow well here and ultimately be delicious in jams and jellies.”
The black current, which is high in vitamin C and has other health benefits, is very popular in Europe and gaining in popularity in the United States. Numerous sources mention its anti-inflammatory properties.
Highbush cranberry (a Viburnum) also does well here. Its fruit is used to make jam, juice and jelly. It is known to many for its ornamental value — white flowers in spring, bright red berries and rust red foliage in fall — but we should add it to our list of edibles in the landscape.
Other well-adapted fruit varieties that we should see much more of in the landscape include gooseberry (Ribes uva-crispa), Jostaberry and Tasti-berry (slightly different versions of a black currant/ gooseberry cross), elderberry (Sambucus spp) and chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa).
A well-known ornamental that we should be learning to eat rather than simply admiring in the landscape is the Amelanchier (am-el-LAND-sheer) also known (in our area) as serviceberry, sarvisberry or Juneberry.
If we include shrubs and small trees of edible fruits in our yards and gardens, we can learn to eat from our landscapes and also be delighted at butterflies, bees and birds that are attracted by the blooms and fruit.
Growing an edible landscape is not only an economical and healthy pursuit, it is also a pleasantly purposeful way for families to combine harvested fruit crops for a day of jelly-making or producing a fresh fruit pie for a neighborhood potluck or setting aside frozen or canned fruit for the winter.
Several varieties of all the fruits mentioned (and more) are available at our locally owned greenhouses and nurseries for planting this spring. Ask also about the Caroline raspberry, whose canes can be mowed in the fall and which will fruit on new canes the following year.
If developing edible landscaping is a decision that will bear fruit for you, go now to speak with the nurserymen to determine the best fit for your growing site and conditions. All of the above fruits stay small (6 to 8 feet at maturity), most would like a companion or two and all are adapted to this area.
Those gardeners who have space at the back of the lot may want to choose hardy, good fruit producers that are not normally considered for landscaping — sea buckthorn, buffaloberry and nanking cherry.
Expand your gardening horizons. Include fruits. Spend a gray and wintry day or two at the greenhouses exploring the possibilities of adding fruit shrubs to your landscape.
Cathie Draine is a member of the South Dakota State University Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners and the Garden Writers’ Association. She lives and gardens in Black Hawk. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.