blueberries, portland nursery, new shipment, winter ornamentals
Pallets of blueberry plants arriving at the Portland Nursery on Stark St. Photo courtesy of Portland Nursery.

Everyone knows blueberries are delicious and the plants grow well in the Pacific Northwest. But did you know that many blueberry varieties also look striking in the winter garden?

With their bright stems, blueberry plants light up the winter landscape, much like red-, yellow-, and orange-twigged dogwoods do. And they are at their vibrant best right now. February is also a great time to get your blueberries and other small fruit plants into the ground. (Of course, the ground should be workable, so give it a few weeks if the ground's frozen where you live.)

Right now, blueberries - as well as other small fruit - are showing up at local nurseries. Check them out now, while you can see the bright twig colors. Wear your woolies, including warm gloves, so you can read the blueberry plant tags and make some decisions about the varieties you want to add to your garden this year.

Here are some features to take into account:

ORNAMENTAL QUALITIES:

- Winter stem color: yellow, red and orange - some are more vibrant, others muted

- Fall foliar color: can range from flaming red or orange to rich purple-red to buttery yellow

- Summer foliage color: some blueberries, like Bountiful Blue, a new Monrovia variety, have dusty blue-tinted leaves

- Plant size: lowbush blueberry varieties can be as low as 1-2' tall and wide, while highbush varieties can range from 5-8' tall and wide.

FRUIT QUALITIES:

- Flavor: lowbush blueberries (range from 1-4' tall) have the classic, sweet-tart, "wild" blueberry flavor, while highbush varieties (usually taller) are the typical sweet commercial berries. But even with the commercial highbush berries, flavor varies. Try a few that sound yummy and see if you can taste the difference!

- Fruit size: some blueberry varieties have simply huge berries, which is kind of fun. They're easy for kids to find, and look impressive on top of your favorite dessert. Large fruit tends to be sweeter and maybe blander, while smaller-fruited types tend to be spicier and more tart in flavor

- Ripening time: plant early, midseason and late varieties for a longer season of fruit. Or, if you just want to make pies, select all one fruit so they ripen together. Just remember to choose at least one plant of another variety that flower at the same time to improve pollination

WHERE TO BUY BLUEBERRIES:

Call first to make sure they are open (winter hours are shorter)

Cornell Farm Nursery

Dennis' 7 Dees Nursery

Garden Fever!

Portland Nursery

Yard, Garden & Patio Show - February 8 - 10, 2013