Marianne Ophardt: Indulge in unique line of small fruit

For the HeraldMarch 14, 2013 

I was glancing at an email advertisement when the name BrazelBerries caught my eye. What are BrazelBerries?

After doing research, I discovered that BrazelBerries are a unique line of small fruit developed by Fall Creek Farms in Oregon. Fall Creek Farms has been propagating and growing berry plants since the 1970s. In recent years, they have sought new berry varieties that are easy for gardeners to grow in containers, are attractive and have delicious fruit.

This year, Fall Creek Farms is introducing Raspberry Shortcake as the first raspberry in their BrazelBerries line. This particular raspberry is thornless and grows into a 2- to 3-inch tall and wide dense mounded plant. It is well suited to large patio containers; does not need cross pollination to produce fruit; has sturdy, upright canes and does not require training to a trellis. Plus, it is fully hardy for our region. The sweet berries are produced in mid-summer. Oregon growers find that the leaves take on a decorative red tint during the summer.

Raspberry Shortcake is supposedly attractive enough to incorporate into your landscape planting as part of an edible landscape. It also is great for growing in large patio containers, so even apartment dwellers can enjoy growing them.

Raspberry Shortcake is not fussy. Fall Creek Farms provides some simple notes on growing it. Plant Raspberry Shortcake in full sun in well-drained, neutral soil. Fertilize in early spring and provide moderate watering. If the leaves start to yellow during the summer, apply a balanced liquid fertilizer according to product instructions.

Pruning is easy too. Once the plant finishes fruiting in mid-summer, prune down to the base of all the canes that fruited during the summer. They will not fruit again. Fruit will be produced next year on the new canes produced this year. To develop fruit buds, these new canes must go through a winter dormancy period.

Because these are raspberries, be prepared for them spreading a bit if planted in a landscape bed. Keep this in mind when selecting a location for planting or plant them in a large container where spreading is not a worry.

Raspberry Shortcake is not the first berry in the BrazelBerry line. Forest Creek Farm’s 20-year quest to “find berry plants that were simple to grow, exceptionally beautiful and delicious — just for the home gardener” first yielded two blueberry plants, Peach Sorbet and Jelly Bean.

Jelly Bean is a dwarf blueberry that forms a 1- to 2-inch spherical mound and produces “a bumper crop of large, flavorful blueberries” in mid-summer. The leaves are bright green in the summer, turning a reddish hue in the fall.

Not quite as diminutive is Peach Sorbet, a 2-inch compact blueberry with evergreen leaves that are peachy colored in the spring and deep purple during the winter. It produces a good crop of sweet blueberries in mid-summer. Both grow best in acidic soil, which is difficult to find in area gardens. However, these dwarf plants can be grown in containers where you can use an acidic potting soil.

-- Marianne C. Ophardt is a horticulturist for Washington State University Benton County Extension.

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