Some of my fondest childhood memories were made among a berry patch. We grew raspberries, blueberries and strawberries on the urban farm where I was raised. Blackberries grew along a neighbor’s fence and we would cut them back just enough to keep them on their property, but within reach when the berries were ripe. In my design work, I have found that berry bushes and small children are perfect companions.
It’s no surprise then that our homestead includes lots and lots of berry bushes – raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, huckleberries and currants. But of all the berries we grow, the Sunshine Blueberry has to be one of my favorites and an excellent problem-solver plant for small spaces. This compact variety only gets about 3′ tall and wide once mature and it has been incredibly productive for us. Juniper has been helping me harvest the young plants for a month now and they are still producing fruit!
The berries are small with a bright, slightly tangy flavor. Folks are often enamored with the huge, juicy blueberry varieties, but they can be watery at times. And I generally prefer the smaller berry size over the huge ones when it comes to baking. They plop nicely into pancakes and compact well into pies. They are technically self-fertile, but you will get a bigger harvest if you plant more than one.
In spring, the compact plants were covered with pinkish-white umbel shaped flowers. They are subtle, but plant lovers will appreciate the delicate blossoms. By May the flowers had all turned into bright green berries. I was astonished with how much fruit they were preparing to set, especially considering these were young plants.
One of my favorite features of this plant is that it is semi-evergreen in mild winter areas (USDA Zones 5-10). It’s a rookie design mistake to overlook the importance of evergreen structure in the garden – sometimes to the extent where you can’t even tell you have a garden in the winter! We have nine of these planted on our homestead that help provide structure and form to our garden year round.
It’s a challenge to find a plant like this: evergreen, edible and compact for urban garden spaces. Blueberries also like acidic soil, so these would likely do well under conifers as well. We are in the thick of summer right now, but as we move into fall you might consider sneaking a few of these little gems into your homestead. They will earn their keep with both their fruit and their evergreen beauty!