Whether due to exorbitant grocery store prices for berry fruits, or the appeal of picking berries straight from bushes in your yard, cultivating berries can be a sweet and rewarding venture for the novice and experienced gardener alike.
Honeyberry hybrids thrive in the northern hemisphere, from Russia (called “Zhimolost”) and Japan (called “Haskap”) to the United States. Often early-fruiting honeyberry cultivars are the first berries of the season, ripening ahead of or simultaneously with strawberries. A member of the honeysuckle family, the honeyberry bush (Lonicera caerula) grows 3-8 feet tall and bears ½-1” oblong, blue fruits tasting a bit like blueberry, grape, cherry, and blackberry. Much like other sweet berries, honeyberries taste delicious fresh off the bush, or in yogurts, ice cream, breads, jams, jellies, and wine. Plus, the fruits are higher in antioxidants than blueberries, with high vitamin C and mineral content.
Fox Hill Gardens is happy to offer several different cultivars this season sourced from a leader of honeyberry production in the U.S. Our selection: ‘Blue Pinwheel’, ‘Blue Horn’, ‘Blue Diamond’, ‘Tiger of Hearts’, and ‘Happy Giant’.
The “edible blue honeysuckle” prefers well-draining soils with some clay ranging in pH from 5-8, is hardy to USDA Zone 2, tolerates afternoon shade, and some varieties will produce over 10 lbs. of fruit per bush after five years (i.e. time to maturity). Honeyberry plants can live 30-50 years, well worth the investment. But don’t fail to plant at least two companion varieties in close proximity to ensure adequate cross-pollination for maximum fruiting.
Compared to other Lonicera spp., honeyberries are considered non-invasive, with minimal suckering.
If you’re interested in adding honeyberries to your landscape, come visit us to survey this season’s selection of cultivars. Honeyberries are largely disease resistant, but require some dormant-pruning as branches age. Regular weeding and watering is essential for younger plants. Protection of buds from late spring frosts is encouraged, along with ample humus, organic matter, and mulch around the base of the bush.
Birds love honeyberries, too, so setting up bird netting is recommended if you don’t intend to share!
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