Boysenberry: Boysenberries originated from a complex cross among blackberry and a raspberry and a [dewberry X loganberry hybrid] on the farm of Rudolph Boysen. Mr. Boysen died,
but fortunately the famous plant breeder and explorer George M. Darrow heard about it and with the help of Walter Knott, rediscovered the plant. It was then brought to
the public's attention by Knott's Berry Farm, in Buena Park, California in 1934, back when it was actually a berry farm.
I planted boysenberries in-between my young grapevines in my Coal Mountain, Georgia orchard. My memory on how they did is vague, probably indicating that they didn't perform well. I don't remember ever getting to eat a berry. I recall them dying back to the ground every winter and I finally gave up and planted more grapes where those useless berries had been. The general consensus is that the thorny kind of boysenberries do better and taste better. I had planted the thornless version.
The lying Washington Post left out the contribution of the dewberry and the loganberry in their story. They HATE dewberries and loganberries and will do ANYTHING to discredit them! Another conspiracy! SAD!!!
(Washington Post and Wikipedia)
'Heritage' red raspberry: Various literature, including the Georgia Extension Service, suggested that the only red raspberry available at the time that might do well in our area was 'Heritage', so that's
what we planted. We grew about an acre of them for the U-pick market. They were planted in bottomland, which was good rich soil, but we made long raised beds so that the berries would be sure to have
good drainage year-round. After harvest, we would mow them with a Bush Hog®. They were essentially organic, though we never got certified. They were a real draw on the farm, because no one else in
our area had them. At home, my Mom made delicious raspberry pies, one no-bake version with a neufchatel bottom crust was a favorite on hot summer days during picking season. We also ate lots of them
fresh, or with fresh cream from our Jersey cows. Although they were not the most intensely-flavored raspberry I've ever eaten, they had a nice red raspberry aroma and certainly tasted good. I
recommend them to Southern growers.
'Heritage' was developed by Cornell University. A good summary of Cornell raspberries can be found here.
'Navaho' blackberry: An erect-cane, thornless blackberry developed by the University of Arkansas' impressive berry-breeding program. I generally agree with the patent description
pasted below with minor edits, even the comment about its excellent taste, with the caveat that 'Triple Crown' is technically a dewberry, not a blackberry.
"Originated from a hand-pollinated cross of Arkansas Selection 583 (non-patented)×Arkansas Selection 631 (non-patented) made in 1977 at the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station Fruit Substation at Clarksville, Ark. The seeds resulting from this controlled hybridization were germinated in a greenhouse in the spring of 1978 and planted in a field on the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station in Clarksville, Ark. The seedlings fruited during the summer of 1980 and one, designated Ark. 1172, was selected for its thornless canes, erect growth habit, and high fruit quality.
During 1981, the original plant selection was propagated asexually from root cuttings and [s]ubsequently, larger test plantings have been[were] established with asexually multiplied plants at [snip] locations in Arkansas and on state experiment stations in Illinois, Louisiana, Florida, Texas, North Carolina and Mississippi.
It forms new plants from adventitious buds on most root cuttings, but is best propagated by rooting softwood cuttings. Test plantings over a wide geographic area have shown this new variety to be adapted to differing soil and climatic conditions. It has performed well in tests in the Southeast U.S. but is not cold hardy in northern states. Plants of the new variety are moderately vigorous and row establishment following planting is more rapid than with other thornless varieties. Both primocanes and floricanes are erect in growth habit and the new variety is the first truly erect thornless variety to be developed. The plants are genetically thornless, having the recessive genes for thornlessness derived from 'Merton Thornless'. Plants and fruit are moderately tolerant to anthracnose (Elsinoe veneta (Burkh.) Jenkins), and plants are immune to orange rust (Gymnoconia peckiana (Howe) Trott). Fruit of the new variety ripens late, about 15 days after the Cheyenne variety, and 7 days after the 'Shawnee' variety, but about 5 days earlier than Dirksen Thornless, a standard thornless cultivar. Average ripening date is June 25 in central Arkansas. The harvest period is longer than most other erect varieties; it produces well for a full month. Fruit yields are comparable with the 'Cheyenne' variety but are less than the Shawnee variety. Late spring budbreak avoids spring frosts and the new variety is consistent in yield from year to year.
The fruit is short conic in shape, bright glossy black in color and medium in size (ca. 5.1 g). The fruit is firm at maturity, consistently rating more firm than fruit of the Cheyenne and Shawnee varieties.
The fresh fruit has better flavor than any extant variety of thornless blackberry and is rated superior to the thorny varieties Cheyenne and Shawnee. The soluble solids content averages 11.2%, higher than most blackberry varieties. Seed size is smaller than other thornless varieties now in existence."
The information other than my own experience was copied from James N. Moore, USPP #6679.
'Triple Crown' blackberry: Technically, 'Triple Crown' is a dewberry because it grows as a vine and propagates by tip-rooting, unlike blackberries which
have upright canes and don't tip-root. Nevertheless, the lying catalog media is conspiring to make us think that only blackberry lives matter, so they insist on calling this a blackberry. That said,
this dewberry is the best-tasting blackberry or dewberry that I've ever eaten, and apparently many others think so, too. In addition to having large, delicious berries (unless it rains during ripening,
in which case, they aren't so good), it is untroubled by diseases and insects and is easy to pick because it is thornless. It is a tough vine that continued producing long after my 'Navaho' plants
had all died. On the downside, it does need some type of support. I grew mine on a simple two-wire vertical trellis, essentially a Kniffen system, as is used up North for grapes. It also freely
tip-roots, which is good if you want to share plants with friends, but requires constant snipping of the tips if you want to keep your berries in a row and not spreading all over. I highly
recommend this berries for fellow Southerners, except the laziest gardeners.
There is a nicely-written article about 'Triple Crown' here, even though the writer is not from the South, but from li'l liberal Oregon and has clearly bought into the lying catalog media's story about this being a blackberry. SAD!!!
When my father decided to migrate away from broiler chicken and beef cattle production and move towards high-value crops, blueberries became our farm's main crop. Thankfully, the talented and dedicated plant breeders associated with the University of Georgia had recently developed a productive, delicious blueberry type that was adapted to the South, the rabbiteye blueberry. The name, "Rabbiteye" comes from the color of the unripe berries, because they are pink like the eye-color of the stereotypical white rabbit. Only a few cultivars of this type were available at the time. We planted a few 'Southland' and 'Woodard' as pollinizers for our main cultivar, 'Tifblue'. A couple of years later, we added some 'Climax' bushes, so named for their characteristic of ripening all their berries in such a short time that you can effectively pick the whole crop in one pass. This characteristic of 'Climax' was actually targeted more towards the large-acreage producers who use mechanical harvesters, but the berries are very good quality and we wanted to try them. Our operation was U-Pick, primarily, and though we weren't certified organic, production methods were organic. We didn't spray the bushes at all and mostly fertilized with cottonseed meal. Bushes were heavily mulched down the entire row with wood chips and we had overhead irrigation leftover from our days growing forage for the cattle. All the above cultivars produce good quality berries, but 'Southland' was notably lower quality than the rest. Both 'Southland' and 'Woodard' were also not as productive as 'Tifblue' and 'Climax'.
After I moved away from home, I experimented with several of the recently-developed "Southern Highbush"-type of blueberries that have the advantage of ripening earlier than rabbiteyes and supposedly are adapted to the Southeast (NOT!). I will have to dig out my notes to list which Southern highbush cultivars I tried, but in my opinion they are not adapted to the Southeast, except maybe the mountain counties and the more-northerly parts of the South. They were all sickly and unproductive in Apex, NC and Pittsboro, NC.
I was also allured by catalog ads from Gurney and Henry Field's (same parent company, by the way) catalogs to try the cultivar, 'Ka-Bluey®' because they said it tasted so good. It's not even recommended for parts of the country below USDA Zone 6, and my Pittsboro garden was in Zone 8, so I don't blame the sellers for the fact that my bush struggled for survival. I got a single berry and it was, as advertised, a fabulous flavor. I can't recommend this berry for most of the South because of its poor health, but it is worth a try in northerly portions of the South and in the mountains. For more information, see the catalogs.
In general, I'd say stick with rabbiteye blueberries. New cultivars of rabbiteyes are released every year now from several breeding programs in the South. The quality and adaptability keeps getting better, too. The most-recent ones I tried were 'Vernon' and 'Ochlockonee'. 'Vernon' is an early-ripening cultivar and 'Ochlockonee' is late-season. More information can be found here.
Blueberries also are a beautiful landscape plant and consistently exhibit bright red fall color.
When I was a student at Cornell (pun not intended), the university had planted a number of seedling Cornus mas as ornamentals on campus. I knew they were edible and tried some. They varied from
delicious sweet-tart, rather like a good pie cherry, to so astringent that one immediately spit them out. Nevertheless, those days of grazing on campus got me looking for an opportunity to
grow some named cultivars. I planted several in Apex and Pittsboro, North Carolina. Both of these towns are in the Piedmont region in USDA Zone 8/ 7b, so its pretty hot and humid. I tried
'Red Star', 'Yellow'™, and 'xxx (I can't remember this one, it started with a "K")'. Basically, they make nice ornamentals in the South, with pretty clusters of tiny yellow flowers appearing very
early in the Spring, but they don't make good fruit in our climate. They ripen in the heat in the South and wind up being very astringent and inedible. They would probably be tasty in a cooler climate.
I can't recommend them as a fruiting tree in the South, but folks in the mountains or along the Mason-Dixon line might give them a try. They have no serious disease or pest problems and if they can
be ripened well, are quite delicious, a good substitute for cherries, as one of their common names implies.
Figs are a very good fruiting crop for those living in the Piedmont or further south. They are easy-to-grow once established, drought-resistant, have no serious insect or disease problems
and are delicious. Considering how happy figs are in the South outside of the mountains, I am frequently surprised at how few of my fellow southerners have tasted a fresh fig. You do need sun, the
more the better, and figs are fairly heavy feeders, so giving them a good dose of cow manure under their mulch is a good idea, especially when the bushes are young. You also should avoid planting
them over sidewalks unless you plan to be diligent at picking the fruit. Dropped fruit, whether because birds knocked it off, rainy conditions and wasps caused it to fall or you were just plain
too lazy or preoccupied to pick the fruit, is messy. Some people will freak out at the wasps that gather on injured fruit as well. On the plus side, large established trees provide great shade
and can be pruned into a great play area for children.
Another crop that Southerners should plant more of are persimmons. There are two main kinds, the American persimmon, Diospyros viginiana and the Asian persimmon, D. kaki.
"Diospyros" means "food of the gods" and I can see why it got this name. A good, ripe persimmon is sweet and rich like candy. American persimmons are one of the sweetest fruits in the world,
sometimes reaching over 40% natural sugar. They also have numerous other health benefits, some of which are described (in a bit too-glowing terms) here.
I actually prefer the taste of American persimmons as well, though there is some variation, because most American persimmons are grown from seed, so not every tree has good fruit. I haven't
grown any grafted American persimmon cultivars, but planting those would ensure that you get high-quality fruit. On the downside, American persimmons grow on large, hard-to-harvest trees and
their fruit is small, seedy and is mouth-puckering astringent until they are fully ripe. There is local lore that American persimmons can't be eaten until they have had a hard freeze. This is
mostly a myth, but there is some truth in it- unripe astringent persimmons are loaded with phenolic compounds that react with protein (which is why they are pucker your tongue as these phenolics
react with your mouth proteins). Persimmon fruit also contains a small amount of protein, so when a nearly-ripe persimmon is frozen, many internal cells burst, releasing protein and phenols to
mix and react with each other, neutralizing the effect on your mouth. The fact is that the ripening process itself oxidizes many of these phenolics and degrades cell membranes, which again allows
the natural persimmon proteins to neutralize the astringent phenolics before you eat them.
Ripening order of those we grew side-by-side was 'Coffee Cake' (late Summer), then 'Chocolate', then 'Fuyu' and finally 'Nikita's Gift' wrapping up the persimmon season just before Christmas. Except for 'Coffee Cake' which ripens much earlier than the others, their ripening seasons overlapped with those adjacent in ripening time.
Persimmons also make beautiful landscape trees, as long as you prevent dropped fruit from making a mess. They have gorgeous fall color of golden and bright orange, and the fruit of the later-ripening cultivars hang on the tree like Halloween mini-pumpkin ornaments. The Asians in particular also have large dark green leaves that are quite attractive from late Spring until their gorgeous Autumn show. They are occasionally bothered by webworms, which are unsightly, but with the aid of a stick and some Bacillus thuringiensis dust or spray, there is a simple, organic solution to this pest.
Pittsboro is right on the edge of temperatures tolerated by some of the more cold-hardy citrus, so I tried multiple times. I planted several trees outside with more or less protection from cold, including a Yuzu (Citrus junos), an 'Owari' satsuma orange, a 'Louisiana Early' satsuma orange, a 'Thomasville' citrangequat (which I prefer to pronounce, "strangequat") and a kumquat.
The Yuzu I planted with no protection because it is supposed to survive down to 13°F. It didn't survive the deer, however.
The 'Owari' is supposed to be hardy down to 12°F and for extra protection was planted next to a stone wall. It froze to death. The 'Louisiana Early' was grown for several years in a half whiskey barrel first and was brought into an unheated garage when it got cold. I picked fruit from it around Thanksgiving (late November for the furriners out there on the Interwebs). However, when the whiskey barrel rotted enough that it needed to be replaced, I tried transplanting this orange into the ground in a protected spot. It also died during the first winter outdoors. The fruit quality was not the best anyway, so no big loss on that one.
Kumquats are supposed to be one of the most-hardy citrus, being able to survive down to the low teens. Our 'Nagami'(?) blossomed nicely and bore several nice fruit before winter came. I had planted next to a south-facing brick wall near the house. We even wreathed it with Christmas lights to provide a little warmth and covered it with a sheet on the cold night, but it succumbed anyway.
The only success story on the outside-planted trees was the 'Thomasville' citrangequat, which is supposed to be hardy down to 5°F once it is established. I planted it next to a north-facing stone wall and it survived two winters before we moved from that house. By the time we left, it was about 5 feet tall. It had wicked thorns, but was otherwise a lovely tree.
I had better success with trees that were planted in half whiskey barrels placed on a rolling platform so that I could roll them into the unheated garage on nights that were predicted to drop below 29°F. Using this method, I was able to grow beautiful 'Improved Meyer' lemons (actually a lemon-orange hybrid; and the "Improved" part just means that it is virus-free, unlike the original 'Meyer' lemon) and 'Brown's Select' satsuma oranges. Both of these fruits are delicious. The satsumas would ripen around Christmas time and were sweet and tangy. The lemons ripened a bit later and were tart, as you might expect from a lemon, but still sweet enough to be edible directly from the tree, skin and all. The blossoms of both trees were ornamental and delightfully fragrant. The only problem that I had with them is that they would get bad scale infestations during the late winter and early Spring. I tried soap sprays, biological predators and light oil sprays, but nothing was perfect. When I gave these two trees away because we were moving, I hand wiped each leaf with a horticultural soap solution so that I wouldn't pass the scales onto the next owner. Luckily, the new owner is taking incredibly good care of these trees and he's getting bigger and more beautiful crops from them than I did, so presumably he has the scale well under control. (Much thanks and appreciation, Jonathan!)
My father planted some fuzzy kiwis in Georgia which didn't fare well, so I said farewell to fuzzy kiwis (Actinidia deliciosa) and tried hardy kiwis in North Carolina. The one that did
the best for me was 'Ken's Red', from which I got one crop from the vine growing on our deck in Apex, NC. The fruit were fuzzless, so could be eaten like a seedless grape and were sweet-tart
with a delicious tropical flavor, so I planted it again in Pittsboro on a rather shady fence. They are slow to come into bearing and need a male pollinizer, which won't produce fruit. 'Ken's Red'
is an interspecific hybrid, A. arguta X melanadra. They do make lovely landscape
plants and have no pests or diseases that I noticed, but they are vigorous vines, so they need a structure to climb on.
I also tried growing the Siberian species A. kolomikta, but they really didn't like our heat, even though I planted them in partial shade on a North-facing slope. For more information on hardy kiwis, the University of Minnesota has published a nice summary which can be found here.