It's soon to be Father's Day weekend but Sunday is also Berry Berry Day! at Powell Gardens. If you want to see and taste everything from late ripening strawberries to red & black raspberries, dewberries, blackberries, blueberries and black, red and white currants a trip to Powell Gardens this weekend is sure to deliver.
Volunteer Bob Hathaway picks Black Raspberries in the Missouri Star Orchard Quilt Garden. Only staff and volunteers are allowed to pick fruit for tasting stations, Cafe Thyme and Cafe Fresh and for visitors to the weekends festivities. Please refrain from the temptation! The fruit will be there for you to sample at the Tasting Stations and in the Cafes.
Black Raspberries (Rubus occidentalis) in Bob's container depict one of the many types of berries in the Genus Rubus which also contains the Blackberries, Dewberries, Red Raspberries and their hybrids. Black Raspberry is native at Powell Gardens and throughout Greater Kansas City but three select cultivars are growing in the HHG: 'Bristol', 'Jewel' & 'Mac Black'; all selected for superior fruit production and disease resistance compared to their wild cousins.
Red Raspberries (Rubus idaeus hybrids) can be a challenge in our climate but this season's copious rainfall and moderate temperatures have allowed their first crop to be wonderful! This is Lauren Red Raspberry, selected for great flavor and fruit over a long season. Most Red Raspberries have a second crop in our cooler fall that is more reliable in our hot summer climate zone. We purposely selected early ripening varieties so that the first crop would be produced before our usual summer heat waves.
Blackberries fresh from the garden are an experience all should have! This Prime Jim Blackberry is large and luscious so be sure and taste the blackberries during your visit.
Here is a "floricane" stem of a Prime Jim Blackberry in the Missouri Star Orchard Quilt Garden. That cane grew last year and was tied to a trellis and bloomed this season to produce ripe fruit now.
Prime Jim Blackberry is a breakthrough in blackberry breeding because it is one of only two cultivars now on the market that will have new summer canes of flowers for fruiting later this season. These secondary canes are called "primocanes." Blackberries have beautiful white flowers, delicious and colorful fruit that go from green to red and black when ripe and then their fall color can be outstanding shades of red in late fall. Blackberries are a fundamental Edible Landscape plant but remember many cultivars like Prime Jim are thorny.
Red Lake Currants (Ribes sativum) are translucent red jewels of tart flavor, cherished for baking special torts and pastries.
Red Currants are from a more northern climate but have been stellar performers the past couple seasons of abundant rainfall and moderate temperatures. They are simply stunning shrubs while in fruit now. They do lose their leaves prematurely so plant them accordingly (not a good front door shrub in the edible landscape).
Black Currants (Ribes nigrum) have fruit that is not so showy but European visitors to the garden always are thrilled to see them! (Yes, I've had 3 such visitors already relay that message to me this year!) Cherished across the pond, this shrub is little known or grown in America's Heartland. Come see and taste for yourself!
The Blueberry crop is ripening well and a bumper crop is upon us. This Bluecrop Highbush Blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) is a classic performer in our climate. Blueberries make awesome edible landscape subjects with beautiful white, urn-shaped flowers in spring, the gorgeous and tasty fruit in summer and fall color that is among the best of all shrubs. Blueberries do require a soil rich in organic matter on the acid side so amend your soil before planting them. Use peat moss or Beats Peat for organic matter and fertilize with something listed for azaleas, rhododendrons or camellias to help acidify the soil.
Again, leave the picking of blueberries to us: this cluster is not quite ripe!
We have been growing the new Minnesota Series blueberries which are hybrids between the standard eastern native Highbush Blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) and the flavorful northern wild Lowbush Blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium). This is St. Cloud Blueberry, named after the city in Minnesota; it has very delicious blueberries!
Here you can see another of the Minnesota Series Blueberries: 'Northcountry.' These shrubs are smaller but just as berry-studded as others so have value in the front of the border or where you don't have space for a larger shrub. Tasting Stations will allow you to taste several varieties of blueberries -- you be the judge on flavor.
Our mulberry crop is about over but you can see a Eastern Kingbird checking out the last of the crop in this little weeping mulberry tree in Fun Food Farm. We have netting to keep birds away from our berries but so far we have comfortably shared the bounty of the garden.
Berries? Nope, this is a NUT! The maturing hazelnuts almost look berry-like right now. I was surprised to see this Hazelnut (Corylus avellana) cultivar 'Heterophylla' (which means cut-leaf) has very short husks so that the nut really shows now while other hazelnut varieties are more hidden in their husk. Another reason to abstain from picking because you could accidentally remove a cherished crop meant for a later time.
I know the forecast for the weekend is for hot and muggy but these hazy days of summer are great for a lazy stroll through Powell Gardens. The Vineyard in the morning haze with Hyssop in full bloom beneath the grapes is worth the trip alone. But be sure and taste the berries and other bounty from the garden. You can cool off with a splash in the Fountain Garden before you leave too!