Edible Landscaping Plants for the North

There are several good books on edible landscaping available, and plenty of information about landscaping in the north, but information on building an attractive edible landscape with hardy plants seems a little scarce. Probably the easiest solution is to find a landscape plan that appeals to you, then replace the plants in the plan with hardy, productive plants of a similar size and shape.

Here is a list of trees and shrubs that will survive cold winters (to zone 3 or even 2) and provide a harvest, with their landscaping attributes. Some, such as apricots, may not fruit reliably, while finding hardy cultivars of others, such as plums, pears, and grapes, may be somewhat challenging. Most of the plants listed are available from DNA Gardens, which has a good selection of hardy plants, but many should be available at local nurseries as well.

Apples: 6'-20', depending on the rootstock. Can be grown as a shade tree, a miniature tree, or trained against a wall or fence to save space. Plant two for pollination. Norland and Goodland are popular hardy varieties.

USask Cherries: 6'-8' shrubs. Large, high-quality sour cherries that may be sweet enough to eat fresh, and very hardy. Choose from Carmine Jewel, Valentine, Crimson Passion, Romeo, Juliet and Cupid.

Evans Cherry: 8'-10' small tree or large shrub. These sour cherries are very productive and very hardy, and are becoming widely available, sometimes as the Bali cherry in the USA.

Rose cherry: 3'-5' shrub, plant two for pollination. Large sour cherries.

Hazelnuts: 7' bushy shrub with good fall colour. Buy them from a reliable source to avoid unproductive, suckering plants.

Grapes: 10' vine, usually trained to a trellis or arbour. Valiant is the hardiest variety, usually recommended for juice and jelly, not fresh eating.

Apricots: 20' tree. Two are required for pollination. Because they bloom early, a late frost often means no fruit that year.

Gooseberry: 3'-4' shrub. Hinnomaki Red or Yellow are among the improved cultivars said to have very good flavour. Some varieties are spineless.

Cherry Plum: 14' shrub or tree. These hybrids require cross-pollination, which is most successfully done by a sandcherry.

Currants: 3'-5' shrub. This is a good plant for a wet spot, and you can choose from red, white and black varieties.

Honeyberry or Haskap: 4'-6' shrub. Improved varieties are currently being tested at the University of Saskatchewan fruit breeding program, so look for new cultivars to be released in the next few years. Plant two or more unrelated plants for best pollination. The fruit resembles elongated blueberries, but it ripens very early in the season and does not require acidic soil. The plants and blossoms are both very hardy.

Plums: 12'-14' tree. Several varieties are quite hardy, such as Pembina, Brookred and Patterson Pride. However, these are all hybrid plums which often do not successfully cross-pollinate each other. Wild plums provide the most success for pollinating these hybrids. Asian plums will pollinate each other, and there are several hardy varieties.

Pears: 15'-20' tree. The hardy variety Ure is sometimes available, but more breeding work is being done. Cross-pollination is required. Some varieties have good fall colour.

Raspberry: 4'-5' bushy canes. Floricane or summer-bearing types are usually planted in short-season areas, as fall-bearing (or primocane) types may not ripen much fruit before frost. Look for a low or non-suckering variety for use in the landscape.

Saskatoon or Juneberry: 6'-14' shrub or small tree, depending on variety. Some have attractive fall colour.

Other ornamental plants that produce edible fruit, usually used for jams and jellies, include seabuckthorn (14'), buffaloberry (6'-10'), nannyberry (15'), highbush cranberry (10'), rugosa rose (6'), nanking cherry (6') and elderberry (6').

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