Plant Profile: Jostaberry, Black Lace Elder

As the days finally become colder it’s worth taking stock of spaces in the garden or replacing small fruit shrubs that are no longer productive. 

Every year I look at my fruit bushes at the end of the season, prune them, make a note of ones to be replaced and then curse myself the following summer when I still have a collection of poor fruiting bushes, which I should have replaced during the winter. 

This year I have made it my mission to extend the variety and length of the fruiting season of what I have. It’s time to move away from the Holy Trinity of Raspberry, Blackcurrant and Gooseberry and bring in some new varieties too. This nicely leads me to talk about two of the bareroot fruit bushes we have for sale. 

The Jostaberry is a cross between the blackcurrant and the gooseberry. It can grow to between 1.5 – 2 metres and makes a nice shrub, it can be espaliered or simply placed in a pot on the patio. The nice thing about this plant is that it is spineless, so no nasty thorn pricks. The fruit is the size of a small gooseberry but has the flavour of the blackcurrant, though a little less strong. Its fruiting season is from late July and August and like the blackcurrant it’s simply a case of pick and freeze, or jam, or eat straight from the bush. They can even be used in salads as the fruit has a nice acidity which is not as strong as the gooseberry. It is disease resistant and hopefully the only thing you will have to protect it from will be the birds. 

Jostaberry in leaf_web

Another plant which we are selling Black Lace Elder left me slightly flummoxed. Black Lace Elder, edible? We are all familiar with it for its dramatic black foliage and beautiful pink flowers but as an edible plant? But of course, elderberries! Black Lace Elder is not only visually stunning, it also has small red berries in the autumn that can be harvested and used in drinks and cooked into pies and crumbles. The flowers can also be used in the same way as their white counterpart for ‘Black Lace’ Champagne, which is pink! 

black-elder-web

As a larger bush (growth can be up to three metres) this is probably better placed in a hedge, or grown up a wall. The growth rate isn’t spectacularly fast so don’t worry that you will be overfaced with something too big. It will survive a couple of seasons in a pot before you need to find a place for it. Now that is something worth raising a glass of champagne to.

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