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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The American Cranberry Bush

Vaccinium m. 'Lo Hugger' with a single hanger-on
Several years ago, I planted our parking strip with blueberry bushes on a small, bermed area that runs up part of the length. Since then, I've been trying to figure out what would make a good edible plant along the slope (besides the ever opportunistic violas that have volunteered their services there). Having planted several berry producing groundcovers such as Rubus pentalobus, nothing has really taken to that area. I then came across an American cranberry bush cultivar called 'Lo Hugger' at work and finally had that woohoo moment.

Not having an over abundance of space, this little gem only get 4-6" tall and is somewhat spreading. Pink flowers give way to large red berries (you can see one still hanging on in the picture) that last into winter. It's hardy down to zone 4. The grower, Fisher Farms states on their web sit that this plant is deciduous while at the same time stating that the leaves turns red in the winter. We shall see.

Like their taller cousins the blueberry bush, Vaccinium macrocarpon generally likes full sun and moist soils, although they can take part shade and seasonal flooded conditions. In fact, harvesting is often done by flooding the cranberry fields with 6-8 inches of water above the bushes and corralling up the floating berries into a corner. They are then pumped up from the beds into trucks that take them to the sorting stations. As flooding the parking strip is not an option, I will be picking them by hand. Perhaps this variety would be a good candidate for the bottom of a rain garden. A good layer of arborist chips around the shrubs should help keep the moisture in.

I nestled 3 plants among the blueberry bushes and hope to harvest enough cranberries for cranberry sauce during the holidays. That is if the opportunistic crows or Stubby doesn't get to them first.

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