Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Fruitscaping- Vertical Space: Walls or Trellises

So you want to plant some climbing fruit on your wall or trellis? Perhaps you have a pergola that could use some coverage? As you begin experimenting, consider planting the following fruits in combination with hops or virginia creeper (for fast, dense coverage) or scarlet runner beans or clematis (to add some colour).

-Kiwi- Grown in Canada for many years, the fruits are smaller than commercial varieties and the skin is smooth. Fresh, it’s eaten more like a grape: skin and all. While technically a Zone 4, there are many warm ‘pockets’ where kiwis will thrive. Find a south- facing wall, make sure it’s protected (by fence or hedge) from prevailing winds and provide the vine with a strong trellis. Sunstar Nurseries carries, and recommends, the Issai variety as it is self-pollinating. 
<b>ISSAI</b> Hardy Kiwi
Issai Kiwi

As a small aside: I have killed my Kiwi. But I would like to think this is because I didn't follow the instructions to plant it on the south side of my house. I ended up moving the poor thing three times in three seasons and eventually it just gave me the heave-ho-gonna-die-on-you-lo. Will be planting another one this season, in the proper Zone 4 space.

 -Grapes (table and wine)- Often associated with warm, desert-like environments, there are numerous cultivars of grapes for fresh eating and wine making that can be grown in northern gardens. According to Dyrland, “Where you place grapes is crucial. They need sun and shelter from the wind.” Fall pruning and heavy mulching is also necessary to maintain the health of the plant. Your efforts will be well rewarded when fruit appears after its third season. Recommended varieties include: Valiant, Beta and Cliché.
Harvest off one four-year old vine at Shallow Creek Nurseries.

Another small aside: I had four varieties of grapes... now I have three because I, again, did not follow instructions and experimented with leaving the vine unpruned over the winter. Now in their third season on the south side of the house, I am expecting a bountiful harvest this year from the remaining vines. Watch for my report. 

- Red or Black Currant- “People shy away from currants because they seem like an old-fashioned fruit, but there are great fresh eating and preserving varieties,” says staff at Sunstar Nurseries. Currants, if left alone, will grow into a 3 x 3 foot bush however they can be trained into a fruiting column or globe form. For a beautiful screen, espalier them against a wall or trellis. This is a showy and versatile fruit.  Dyrland recommends any variety that starts with “Ben” like the Ben Conan, Ben Nevis, and Ben Sarek. Check our The Fruit Nut's Blog for extensive information on currants and instructions to espalier one.

Next Fruitscaping post: Trees. 

This reprint is part of an article I wrote for Gardening for the Prairies, Winter 2012. Over the next few days, in time for planting season, I'll publish the list of fruit options you might consider when making landscaping decisions. Planting prairie fruit doesn't have to be limited to the veggie patch or a brambling patch of raspberries in the alley. In this series, we'll look at fruit you can use for ground cover, vertical cover, screens, feature plantings... When it comes to fruit-scaping, thanks to the U of S's many new fruit varieties, us northern gardeners are limited by our imagination, not our Northern climate!

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