9 Things to Consider When Planting a Fruit Bush in Your Perennial Border

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“Ash them!” says biodynamic, fruit-farmer Bob when I ask how he deals with pests.

He continues, “I remember going into a storeroom on a biodynamic winery, seeing gopher pelts and my boss covered in blood. He’d dry and save the pelts for a year, then, next season, he’d dust the whole place with gopher ash.”

This morbid ritual was done to repel gophers.

You’re probably not going to go to this extreme in repelling pest. You might not even care what biodynamic farming is but you’d totally love the figs, blueberries, apples, blackberries growing here. Visiting stimulated my appetite. Not for roast gopher, I just want a great organic blueberry bush in my perennial border. But are blueberries really the right thing?

If you have limited space but want to grow a fruit tree or two, mix one into your border. Lots of fruit trees have great leaves, textures, fall colors and can fit in beautifully into perennial borders.

But consider these 9 things before you plant a fruit bush in your perennial border:

Ultimate Size

In a border, seek dwarf cultivars. In the J.C. Raulston Perennial Border, I saw two dwarf peaches.

Ease of Care

I’m never going spray,or do special pruning or ash the bluejays, so I need something really tough.

Root System

Plants with massive, thirsty root systems, such as mulberries will be to competitive. American elderberries run like crazy and take over entire beds.

Length of time until it bears fruit?

Are you willing to wait on a persimmon? Beautiful shrubs (get a dwarf), expensive, tasty fruit, but they take 6 or 7 years to produce.

Design Issues and Seasonal Beauty

Does it look great year round, have interesting flowers, bold texture or winter bark?

How much fruit do you get and when?

I love paw paws, but they all come at once. So, I have to squeeze and freeze them. A friend loves to plant figs, but he goes to Maine every summer and neighbors eat his figs.

Similar Cultural Needs

Sounds basic, but if you have a shady border, a wet border or such, you have to select a fruit bush that will thrive there.

What will grow with it?

Can you under plant with daffodils? Can you train a clematis into the shrub? Will a really tall Crinum ‘Rose Parade’ pop up through the leaves?

Special Pollination Requirements

Blueberries, Kiwi, need TWO different cultivars, or a male and female. So they take more space.

After considering all, I’ve decided on a dwarf pomegranate. Everything I do in the garden, like one of the tenants of biodynatmic farming, is to evaluate the input verses the output — in this case, the input and cost of a pomegranate is greatly outweighed by the joy I know I’ll have in elegant leaves, brilliant orange flowers, nutritious fruit and ease of gardening. Keep up with my travels to fun & freaky farms on my email list at www.jenksfarmer.com

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