Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Huckleberries – Native plants and permaculture in our back yard.

On a clear day, we can usually see the tip of the mountain from Vancouver, WA over the eastern hills. Upon first approach it becomes an overwhelming presence that the dominates the landscape. The summit, at 12,276 feet makes this the third highest peak in the Cascade range.

Native Americans have harvested huckleberries on the flanks of Mt Adams in the Gifford Pinchot Wilderness for thousands of years.

Our 10th acre in suburban Vancouver, WA is blessed with a large, pine tree in the northwest corner. Upon investigation it seems to be the perfect spot for relocation of a rhododendron bush and a home for huckleberries.

Both plants are perfect as an evergreen, understory layer in this corner. They will provide habitat and food to birds,butterflies and other small wildlife – which I hope they will share.

The rhododendron is at present in our front yard and will take a bit of digging to get out. Thankfully we have a wheelbarrow and sharp shovels. It's melon colored flowers and glossy leaves will add contrast to the back corner.

As to the huckleberries, we were able to buy them from our conservation district which holds a yearly native plant sale.

Count this as our “before” picture. As you can see there is quite a lot of work to do to get the area ready. Removal of blackberry vines, mis-planted arborvitae and some English Ivy which has wandered in from somewhere else. Plenty of raking too. The Rhododendron bush will have room to spread in the semi-shade and so will the huckleberries, which can get up to 6 feet tall and 6 feet wide. This will help block our view of our neighbors backyard.

The evergreen huckleberry, Vaccinium ovatum, has attractive bronze foliage in the spring with white, urn shaped flowers that bear dark purple, tasty, edible fruit in the fall. The berries are high in vitamins A, C, Iron and Calcium and very low in carbohydrates.
Huckleberries are used as jam and in many dessert recipes such as apple and huckleberry crisp.

What native plants would you like to have in your garden?