Feature Plants

Serviceberries at skipley farm

The Ribes Tribe: Gooseberries, Currants and their crosses-e.g. Jostaberry: We have 18 native species that grow in the NW. To this end we have an equal number of associated pests. On the farm we typically stand to loose about 50 to 60% of the fruit to various numbers of these happy critters. One can avoid the damage by being isolated-in an area that does not have native species. Let me tell you, bugs will find you. It had taken 5 years when I lived in Insect/Plant “desert” of Capitol Hill, Seattle. They will seek out the scent of the flower. Plant pheromones? Not sure but here are a few of the trouble-makers: Sawfly-a wasp with a voracious appetite to consume all the leaves in 1 week. these will build up if you’re not on top of it. Cane Borer-a fly

Caroline Raspberry: Today, (May 14)  I pulled out 4 dozen ‘Caroline’ raspberry starts a foot high and immediately put them under the sprinkler. I potted these in the rain and they never had a chance to wilt. I put them in the shade with all the apple grafts and it looks like they’ll carry-on without much abbreviation. Caroline bears twice- June and Sept.- Oct. It bears 1 pound per 13 feet per day-and it’s best to pick every day to stay ahead of spotted winged drosophila (SWD) the fruit fly that lays hundreds of eggs in the fruit-especially in the calm interior of the bush. Picked firm and not dead-ripe you will have 30 to 40 pounds in the fall and 20-30 pounds in June, 60 pounds on 13 feet per year! Plants are planted 2 feet apart on a mound or very well drained soil

Winter propagation runs from November through February. Hardwood cuttings are set and beginning to callus with bottom heat. One of our favorite plants is Camellia sinensis or common “Tea”. It is evergreen and grows like a camellia to about 6 feet. It thrives in shade or full sun but prefers not too hot. Grow a Tea plant with moderate water and moderate acid fertility. It makes a nice clean green for a front-row spot, foundation.

Another gem of a plant is Serviceberry. I have grown 25 cultivars of Amelanchier, several that are native here and the word is they are easy, fast, colorful, drought tolerant, four-season interest, wildlife attracting, excellent as a fresh, sweet berry, dried, jammed or frozen for blending. It grows around the world and not surprisingly has dozens of common names. A few are: Sarvisberry, Shadbush, Shadblow, Saskatoon and Juneberry.

Dry serviceberries at skipley farm
Dried Serviceberries

The name “shadbush” does not have a Native American etymology (it is a compound word combining the English words “shad” and “bush”)  from it’s bloom cooinciding with the Shad fish running up river to spawn; however, the plant’s alternate Canadian name, “saskatoon,” comes from the Cree name misâskwatômin (pronounced similar to mih-sask-wa-toom-in,) which refers to the berry.

Saskatoon berries play an important role in Native American culture as one of the main ingredients of pemmican, a kind of high-protein trail food used by many tribes while traveling. Blackfoot people made a sacred soup from saskatoon berries to be shared at special events. The serviceberry is also considered one of the sacred Life Medicines of the Navajo tribe. Shadbush roots and bark were sometimes used as medicinal herbs in a number of tribes, and among the Iroquois and Lenape, shadbush blossoms were seen as the sign that the right time had come to plant corn. To the Achumawi tribe of northern California, shadbushes played a more important mythological role, with humans being created from serviceberry wood and shavings.

Silver Fox and Coyote , a story of the Serviceberry People

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