• Plant seeds of broccoli, cabbage, lettuce and other spring vegetables now.
    • Spray for peach leaf curl with copper spray. Peach and nectarine trees may suffer from this fungus disease without a protective spray.
    • Bare root fruit trees, grape and berry vines, and ornamental trees, roses, wisteria and lilacs are still available.
    • English daisies are an early-blooming perennial with showy red, pink or white flowers. They will bloom all spring in partial shade.
    • Strawberries can be planted any time now. Get them in early, and you’ll be picking strawberries this summer.

Natives Berries for the Landscape

California’s redwood forests have a unique community of plants which grow in the sun-dappled shade at the base of the towering trees. In this special ecosystem, sword ferns, rhododendrons, salal, huckleberries and many other shrubs, trees and wildflowers thrive under the dark, moist grandeur of the redwoods.

One of the great delights of late summer is to come upon a patch of wild huckleberries that are ready to pick. This slow-growing, native evergreen shrub has delicious blue berries which ripen in late summer and early fall and are enjoyed by humans and wildlife alike.

Evergreen huckleberries vary in height from 3 to 8 feet tall depending on their growing conditions, but can be kept smaller with pruning. They grow taller in shady locations and are smaller with greater sun exposure. A handsome choice for woodland gardens, berry patches, and even containers, evergreen huckleberry is an ideal “edible landscape” shrub.

Known botanically as Vaccinium ovatum, this lovely shrub has small shiny leaves that are dark green above and pale green underneath, with copper-colored new growth. The spring flowers are particularly attractive. They hang like clusters of pink, urn-shaped bells very much like heather or manzanita blossoms, to which they are related.

Huckleberries make excellent landscaping plants since they have such attractive, glossy, evergreen foliage and showy edible fruit. They are good for anchoring soil and flourish in sun or shade with some summer watering and good drainage. They like acidic soil that is low in organic matter, and tolerate everything from sandy soils to clay, and are drought tolerant once established. One inch of organic mulch will keep them happy.

Evergreen huckleberries are excellent plants for creating wildlife habitats. The flowers attract butterflies and the berries are eaten by scarlet tanagers, bluebirds, thrushes, and other songbirds. Deer and rabbit browse freely on the plants. Because of their food value to wildlife and their dense shrubby growth, evergreen huckleberry is a good addition to hedgerows.

In fall, the plants are covered with delicious, juicy, purplish-black berries. They are delicious fresh and also make excellent jelly, pies, pancakes and muffins. They can also be frozen and used for up to 6 months.

Huckleberries were a traditional food of Native Americans who sometimes traveled great distances to harvest them. They ate the berries fresh, usually with oil, dried them, and partly mashed them and pressed them into cake form. The leaves and berries, which are high in Vitamin C, have a variety of herbal uses.

The flavor of huckleberries, especially wild huckleberries, are generally much stronger than blueberries. Ripe huckleberries should be sweet with a little tartness. They are generally sweeter than blueberries when they are fully ripe.

Vaccinium ovatum is harvested commercially, not for its berries, but for the use of its foliage in the floral arrangements.

Edible plants can be important additions to your landscape, providing beauty as well as tasty and healthy treats for your family.

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