Landscaping with fruiting plants

Want to eat like a caveman? The paleo diet suggests only eating what ancestors might have foraged, such as these blueberries.. (Photo courtesy of Jo Ellen Myers Sharp)

Want to eat like a caveman? The paleo diet suggests only eating what ancestors might have foraged, such as these blueberries.. (Photo courtesy of Jo Ellen Myers Sharp)

by Ellen Goff

True luxury gets harder to come by in tough times. Delighting in small pleasures, like picking perfectly ripe blueberries or figs from your own backyard, may be the most affordable way to indulge your desires.

Throughout the Southeast, landscaping with fruiting plants has become easier than you may think. Whether you measure your outdoor space in acres or square feet, you have room to grow your own.

Determine where you can add a few trees or shrubs, realizing full sun is a must for most fruiting plants. For patio plantings, select containers with an 18- to 24-inch radius.

There are dwarf varieties of fruit trees that are bred to be grown in a pot. I have the dwarf blueberry variety Top Hat in a pot set on a dolly so I can move it to follow the summer sun until its fruit ripens  in August. I handle my dwarf Meyer Lemon trees the same way.

When choosing a fruit to grow, consider what you're passionate about. I'm crazy for berries and grow several rows of raspberry canes (Red Latham and Heritage) and clusters of blueberry bushes (Rabbiteye Climax and Tifblue) all protected by a tall deer fence.

Elsewhere in the yard, I've planted a Pixie Crisp dwarf apple, Celeste figs, Honeysweet pears and paw paw trees, all shrouded in netting to repel critters.

My orchard collection is typical for customers of A-rated Young's Garden Center in Fort Mill, S.C. “With the state of the economy, people are interested in self-sustaining gardens,” says Phil Bauschard, nursery manager.

“Plus, there's concern about trusting what's really organic. People want to grow their own fruit without chemicals.” Apples, peaches and pears are Young's top sellers.

Kim Hupmun, manager of Twin Branch Nursery & Landscape in Woodstock, Ga., says she's witnessed an increased interest in fruit trees and shrubs, especially blueberries.

“People love them, and they're very easy to grow — they're excellent bushes to have in the yard,” she says.

Hupmun also says fig trees are quite popular. “You find old figs planted around historic homes and vintage landscapes,” she says. “They're a traditional Southern tree, and people want to plant some of that nostalgia.”

Growing the right plant in the right place is essential for its success. Lisa Curry, operations manager for Wilcox Nursery in Largo, Fla., says they prefer to sell fruiting plants such as navel oranges, Key and Persian limes, papayas and strawberries – all well-suited for coastal Florida. 

In last January's freeze, Curry says it was the exotic plants that froze — not the fruit trees.

“Growing fruit has a broad appeal among our customers,” she says. “But we won't sell what won't grow well here.”

Ellen Goff is a freelance horticulture writer and photographer. She's passionate about plants, water quality and protecting the environment. Aside from working with words and pictures, she stays busy with her home landscape and its inhabitants along the shores of Lake Wylie, S.C.


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