Sunday, October 2, 2011

Fall Haskap Blossoms

Lonicera Caerulia L. have not ceased to surprise me. Our biggest plant, a 3-year-old potted Tundra was accidentally left out in the hot sun for a several days in late August and completely dried out. Most of the leaves shriveled up and fell off. Having seen tremendous tenacity in other blue honeysuckles that had come upon hard times, I doused it with water and kept up with the moisture for the next month. But not seeing any new growth, I thought I would have to wait until spring to determine if it survived. Can you imagine my shock to find this gorgeous cluster of blossoms at the end of one of those "dead branches"?

Fall blossoms on 3 year old Tundra, Sept. 27, 2011
Then the question was whether these blossoms would turn into berries. While another blue honeysuckle plant of a different variety is recommended for maximum fruit production, it is possible to get fruit without another plant. And sure enough, this Tundra did not disappoint us. Out of the half dozen or so blossoms, we found three little green berries! Another twenty days or so and they should be ripe!  - Nov. 15 update: no berries matured :-( Guess I'll have to wait 'til spring!
Three berries have formed, Oct. 2, 2011

I have also seen haskap survive after being stripped of all its leaves through accidental weeding. Haskap may need at least a month or more to show any sign of life, so don't give up on them too soon! Only 1.3% of this spring's shipment did not survive transplanting for unknown reasons, and once they get established they are very hardy.    -Bernis, northern MN

Monday, August 15, 2011

Zone 3 - MN - Tundra haskap berry surprise

While down on my knees hand weeding the haskap plants in our orchard I was shocked to find blue treasure! Yes, there at the end of the older wood (but still first year growth) was a Lonicera Caerulia berry! I found six of these precious gems on six bushes, or on 2% of the Tundra plants. No berries were found on any Borealis or Berry Smart Blue plants. No berries were found on the year old plants (2nd year growth) that had produced blossoms earlier in the season. So what was it that made those select 2% Tundra plants so special?
Foot tall, first year Tundra plant with berry
These bushes were propagated by tissue culture in the winter of 2011, nurtured in the greenhouse in Canada until mid June, shipped to Minnesota and planted at the end of June. Six weeks later these berries were discovered. Even though the berries look ripe on the outside, the one berry I sampled was quite tart, indicating it lacked a few weeks yet to fully ripen inside. 
Tundra Berry on first year plant
"Starting with day zero when the flower is fertilized, cell division occurs during days 0 – 23. High respiration occurs during this phase, i.e. plant uses lots of energy to build cells. This may be the most crucial phase for watering haskap. Cell expansion occurs during days 24 – 42, when the cells get filled with water. The berry is green and very firm until day 23. Almost overnight it turns blue on the outside, but needs about three more weeks for the inside to turn dark blue indicating it is fully ripe." (James Dawson, grad student, U of S)
Tundra berry 11/16" long from first year plant
What I've seen of Tundra and Borealis is that they can be expected to grow about a foot a year, up to their adult height of approximately 4 feet. I have seen their growth stunted in highly alkaline soil (>7) and heard that highly acidic soil (<5) is not ideal either. Our foot of topsoil has plenty of organic matter with ph 6.5 and heavy clay underneath. The plants have done very well so far with plentiful rainfall this year.   Bernis, northern MN

Zone 5a, Illinois - Borealis Haskap Survivor, planting tips

"The leaves on the plants developed brown spots and 7 out of 8 have died. This plant survived after spraying it with an anti fungal spray. I could have done a better job gradually exposing the plants to full sunlight. I planted the berries in Miracle Grow potting soil assuming that they would do well in that kind of soil." Doug, IL (late June planting)
(Editor's notes)
Ideal planting time: late fall or early spring, with dormant plants that can go directly into your pots or ground soil, but we have had very good success with later plantings as well (<2% fatality rate for late June planting). When actively growing plants are shipped, they need adequate hardening off, gradually increasing their exposure to direct sunshine over a 5 day period if the sun is strong.

Brown spots on leaves: The leaves may develop some brown spots during shipping. Our state inspector recommended treatment with a copper fungicide available at local hardware stores, but said it wasn't anything to be overly concerned about. Our experience has shown that the overwhelming majority of plants will survive and produce new growth. Also, in windy areas, the undersides of the leaves may be exposed to the sun scorch (brown streaks) but the leaf does not wither and the plant still survives.

Fertlization: The plants have been given good nutrients in the nursery and do not require additional fertilization the first year, though testing needs to be done to determine what fertilization schedule would be optimal. Aged manure is the tried and trusted fertilizer of choice but we are also looking into other ecologically-based options such as the water soluable 2 step program offered by EarthSoils.  Dry fertilizator spread on top of the soil has burned the bark and killed other growers' plants. Applying water soluable fertilizer in excessive amounts will damage the plants as well. Do not apply fertilizer past mid summer so that the plants do not continue to put out new growth, as they need to prepare their roots for dormancy. 

Thank you, Doug, for sharing your experience and fotos. We not only publish success stories but seek to learn from all experiences, so congratulations on being our HoneyberryUSA 2011 Foto Contest Winner! We trust you'll have better success with your replacement plants in the fall!

Bernis, HoneyberryUSA

Zone 8 - Texan Obituary

Regret to inform you that the heat and drought have combined to cook your tender little Minnesota berry plants, and they are no more. Dan'l, north central Texas  P.S. I take the blame for not watering them more diligently, and yet was afraid to put them in with the other berries, the grasshoppers have been a mini-plague this year.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Zone 3, Northern Minnesota - Tundra Taste Test

5/8" Blue Belle berry next to 1" Tundra berry
Finally, the big day arrived when the Tundra were ripe enough to compare to the Blue Belle honeyberries! First of all, the size was amazing - so much larger than the Blue Belle! We see that the smaller Tundra berries were about the same length as the largest Blue Belle berries, but a bit plumper. The largest Tundra berries were way bigger. The waxy coating is visible on the fotos. And the taste? Blue Belle - sweet-tart with a hint of "wildness", as in something you would expect to pick out in the wild versus a domesticated berry. The Tundra was very pleasant. I didn't find it tart at all. I thought it resembled a domesticated blueberry flavor more than the Blue Belle. It is indeed a sturdy berry that appears to hold its shape well. The skin was thicker than Blue Belle's, but still melted in the mouth. With only a dozen or so berries on this two year old nursery grown plant, this is strictly a fresh eating sampling. I was expecting more tartness and am eager to try some Borealis berries in Canada next month to see which I like better. My evaluation so far of Tundra is that it has measured up to the claims of it being a great berry for its size, flavor, and sturdiness. In regards to the other edible blue honeysuckle berries that I have tasted I would have to say that I like the other ones as well, but given the tremendous difference in size there is no question as to the value of the Tundra.

Jason, from Ohio, emailed how he prefers the sweetness of the Tundra compared to other honeyberries he has tasted, but also that berries taste sweeter after a rain. After last night's soaker, I can verify that fact.  Bernis, Northern Minnesota

Monday, June 13, 2011

Zone 3 - Northern MN - Berry Comparison

Tundra and Blue Belle berry comparison
These berries are both 5/8" long, but the Tundra is twice the width! Both berries are from greenhouse grown plants in their 3rd year of growth. The Blue Belle tastes good to me, and of course we'll have to wait awhile for the Tundra to ripen up! These came from different greenhouses so this is not a good comparison for the ripening rate. There are 2-3 dozen berries on these plants.

Blue Belle (3 yrs) and Tundra (2 yrs, 2' tall)
Looking back on this blog, I see that a month ago Blue Belle was in full bloom, so that gives an idea how long it takes for those berries to form and ripen.
 Bernis, Bagley, MN

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Zone 4 - Upper Snake River, Idaho

I planted 24 Borealis, 24 Tundra and 6 Berry Smart Blue the week of April 23, 2011.
These were year old plants from HoneyberryUSA. I dug a hole for each, 20" diameter and about 16-18" deep.  Prepared the soil with a small amount of certified weed-free compost, humate, some straw, and a half gallon of potting soil.  Then placed the soil mix back into the hole and placed the haskap in the center with the top of the root ball 6" below ground level.  I then filled in covering the base stem with 1-2" of soil mix leaving the plant in a 4" deep bowl and also built up a small mound around the 20" hole with the remaining soil.  This looks to be great for times of rain or watering, plus it offers some protection from future wind.  Overall, the shipment looked well packed and arrived in good moist condition with small green buds showing that they were just coming out of dormancy. I do have 3 Borealis and 3 Tundra that do not have buds and the stems are not showing the alive buckskin brownish stems. These 6 have very slender stems that are a dark brown and all are the smallest of the shipment.  I will continue to give great care to these 6 and look for signs of life. April 25, 2011
Later: I have one Borealis that is showing no signs of life, all the rest
recovered and look great.  I have 2 Tundra that are flowering." June 7, 2011
J, north of Idaho Falls, ID

Zone 4 - Southern MN - Haskaps Survive Record Breaking Heat!

This Tundrealis (can't remember if it was Borealis or Tundra) survived record breaking 100F heat this week with afternoon sun, but something must have nibbled its leaves earlier in the spring. Some holes in middle of leaves, and a bit small for rabbit bites, so maybe an insect? The Berry Blue 10 feet away was not touched. No blossoms appeared on these year old bushes planted last fall. About 10" of growth so far this year. Bernis from Albert Lea, MN

Monday, May 30, 2011

Zone 3 - Northern MN - Haskap Blossoms

Not all year old honeyberries bloom, but this one outshone the rest by bearing 18 pairs of delicate blossoms.
18 pairs of blossoms on year old Tundra

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Zone 6b - Berries in NJ, May 19, 2011

Matt's done it again - sent in a delightful honeysuckle foto that give us northerners something to look forward to!

Blue Velvet

Honeyberry and Haskap Patch (1-3 year old plants)
 "Both Tundra bushes (year old) have about a handful of green berries on each plant. I figure the berries will be ready in a couple more weeks. Both Tundra bushes have pretty much stopped growing but I hope they will have another growth spurt after the berries are picked. The (2+ year old) Blue Moon has been growing like crazy in the past few weeks, probably doubled in size. I think its safe to say the Blue Moon is doing the best out of all the bushes. It has a couple handful of small to medium green berries on it right now. The Blue Velvet dropped most of its flowers and fruit within the past few weeks which I expected due to shock from replanting in early spring, but it still has a handful of large berries on it. Blue Velvet is also the first out of all the bushes to have a some of its berries turn purple! So I assume it will ripen first." Matt, NJ

It looks like Matt has netted his plants so he might even get to eat the berries this year! Now he just has to wait for them to turn dark purple all the way through for the best flavor! Bernis, MN

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Zone 3 - Northern Minnesota - May 10, 2011

Three year old Blue Belle
While the focus of this blog is the Canadian bred haskap from the University of Saskatchewan, we're happy to see any Blue Honeysuckle bearing such pretty flowers! Blue Belle (lonicera kamchatika) sat outside this past winter at Bergeson Nursery with no winter damage and very early blooming. It measures 20" tall, and is expected to reach 3 feet at maturity. Joe Bergeson has been growing several varieties for three or four years in rich Red River Valley soil with good success. Bernis, with thanks to Joe

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Zone 6b - New Jersey - April 26, 2011

Berries and Blossoms on Year Old Tundra

This Tundra's pollenizer was a honeyberry labeled "Blue Velvet" that blossomed earlier than the Blue Moon or Tundra. Blue Velvet is supposed to be a late bloomer, so this is a bit of a mystery. Blue Velvet is not supposed to be a great pollenizer for Tundra as they are related, but some pollenization will occur even from related plants. (Bernis, from Matt's report)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Zone 6b - New Jersey - April 16, 2011

1 year old Tundra, blossoms forming

Blue Velvet, blossoming

Blue Moon, leafing out
  Matt Catania sent in some great pics of his honeyberry plants on April 15 & 16, 2011. Tundra was forming blossoms. Blue Velvet was blossoming. It had spent the winter outside at a local greenhouse. The Blue Moon is the suggested companion pollenizer to Blue Velvet, but no blossoms were forming yet. It spent the winter outside at Matt's place. Blue Velvet and Blue Moon are supposed to be late blossoming honeyberries, so will be interesting to see what happens next year when the two plants are wintered over in identical environments. Photo tip: the white background is simply a piece of white cardboard held up behind the plants!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Zone 3 - April 8, 2011 - Northern Minnesota Haskap Leafing out in Snow

April 8, 2011 Borealis breaks through the snow
I had heard about haskap leafing out in the snow but I had to see it to believe it! The 60F weather today helped, I'm sure! But still looks odd to see little leafs on the spindly sticks! Bernis, MN

Year old Borealis leaf

Friday, April 1, 2011

April 1, 2011 - Zone 3 Northern Minnesota

Haskap Orchard
April 1, 2011 Northern Minnesota - No fooling!
Just had to post these pics today!

Last year was another story - snow was gone, ground thawed, and I even put in a few potatoes and beets! But we trust spring is around the corner somewhere, and will be on the watch for the first budding of our haskap. It could be worse, I hear northern Vermont still has 3-4 feet of snow! And Alaska doesn't even think of getting into their dirt before May 1st! Bernis, MN

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Zone 8 Oregon

March 31, 2011, Cornelius, OR - Flowers on 3 year old haskap from OSU
June 1, 2011 "the berries are grass green yet but man are the plants putting on new growth. some have at least a foot of new growth." doug
2010 foto, Cornelius, OR - Berries on 2 year old haskap from OSU
"japanese haskap propagated in 2008. planted in 2009. when i bought the plants from the Oregon State University they were in six inch pots and about 15 inches tall.  they grew and were very healthy. after i planted them they started to get this browning of the leaves. the browning will get so bad that the plants lose most leaves and go into a dormancy in june.  i am leaning towards powdery mildew but i don't really see any white dust coating any of the leaf top or bottom.  these plants were started from cuttings and they are only identified by number i believe i have 6 different kinds. plants are on drip irrigation. fetilized using 16-16-16 and hazelnut shells (1/2 gal bucket/plant). this year will try Miracle Grow. i just want to make it clear that this is my problem that i have not seen on any other OSU plants." Doug, Cornelius, OR

Monday, March 28, 2011

Zone 6b - New Jersey - March 28, 2011

Blue Moon, approx 2 years old, zone 6b NJ, March 28, 2011
At the end of the summer last year I bought a Blue Moon honeyberry bush from a local nursery because it was 60% off. After a couple weeks its leaves turned brown and fell off. The bush pretty much looked dead so I just put it off to the side and forgot about it. This morning I went out to check on my  fruit plants and to my surprise the Blue Moon has large green buds all over! Matt, NJ

First Year Tundra, New Jersey zone 6b, July 2010
This Tundra arrived in New Jersey on June 6, 2010, and after a couple of days of being hardened off, was set out in a mixture of 1 part organic soil mix, 1 part construction sand, and 1 part pine bark mulch (just what I happened to have on hand) with a ph level of 6.5-6.8. It did well over the summer, though didn't grow much more. Around March 20, 2011 it started to break dormancy with many buds that started to swell. Matt, NJ

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Zone 8 - Texas - First haskap of spring

Borealis, Tundra and Berry Blue were reported to be leafing out the last week of February in zone 8, just south of Ft. Worth, Texas: "Yes, they are leafing out right now.  I noticed them about three days ago, coming out before anything else.  They were exposed to the weather (south side of a barn), but the ambient temperature was about 6 degrees, two different nights, and below freezing for a week. Daytime temps now in the 80s. The real question is how they do from July 15-Sept 15.  Ask me again in November." Daniel, TX