Many gardeners take great pride in their flower beds, placing an assortment of different varieties together to create colorful patterns that stay fresh and beautiful all throughout the growing season. Of course, for every one of these gardeners, there are even more gardeners who want to do something nice with their flower beds but inevitably let them run wild, resulting in intermittent blossoms and overgrown bushes.
One way to turn those underutilized beds into something wonderful is to replace the flowers in them with berry bushes. If placed on the border of a property, these beds can also make for aesthetically-pleasing privacy hedges after a few years. On top of that, you also get to reap all of their delicious fruit.
Consider replacing your lackluster flower beds with the following berry bushes. You'll enjoy their sweet, sticky rewards while also making your garden more attractive to the local songbirds.
Blueberries are great for foundation planting, or blending a home into its natural surroundings. They won’t grow so quickly that they require a ton of pruning, and they can handle a great deal of direct sunlight if they have to. Plus, cross-pollinating different varieties of blueberries is not only possible, but helpful to growing large and vibrant fruit.
The local nursery or garden center should be able to give you advice on which blueberry varieties will work well in your climate, and if you want, you can even cultivate one early, one mid-season, and one late-fruiting bush so that you can enjoy your berries for a greater amount of time. Alternatively, you can choose to grow varieties that fruit at the same time to create large batches of jam or preserves.
Blueberries grow best in acidic soil, so be sure to work items like coffee grounds into your soil if it normally tends to skew alkaline.
As opposed to other berry bushes, which often produce spindly branches, currant bushes will create thick, effective windbreaks and can even deter larger pests like deer from entering your yard or garden. The fruit itself, which is harvested in bunches, is best when cooked and can make for a delightful and long-lasting jam or preserve. If you raise chickens, you may find that they are drawn to these plants, since they enjoy the taste of the raw fruit.
Currants are a great example of a fruit that is occasionally forgotten because most people don’t enjoy them straight off of the bush. Still, they grow so well and serve so many uses in the garden that they're easily worth the extra work of being cooked up.
Raspberry bushes traditionally have thorns, making them ideal for hedges at the edge of a property or under first-story windows to deter potential burglars. Their dark green leaves and bright red fruit are absolutely beautiful, even if they tend to grow in a slightly unruly fashion. Like blueberries, raspberries are immediately edible, though their plants will require a little more upkeep in that they usually need to be given a thorough pruning every year. They come in both red and black varieties, and if you do opt for the ones that grow substantial thorns, you'll also want to invest in a pair of thick gloves for your harvesting and pruning chores!
These dark purple fruits are perfect for winemaking, but they can also make for a great cooked syrup for fermenting or a simple refreshing drink when mixed with sparkling water. Elderberries are not typically consumed raw since they hurt some people’s stomachs, and it's a good idea to wait until they are fully ripe to harvest them. They should be both dark in color and soft — not at all hard like they are when they're green or red. To dislodge the ripe fruits without collecting any hidden red or green specimens, try clipping them in big clusters and knocking them against the inside of a bucket. Any berries that aren't ripe will be much harder to knock off of the stem.
Regardless of whether you use all of their fruit or not, these plants still provide good habitats for birds and food for a lot of the other wildlife in your garden, drawing them away from the plants you might actually want left alone. They also tend to grow slowly, only requiring pruning and thinning once every few years. You'll find that mulching with pine needles or plant food can be very helpful for getting your fledgling bushes off to a robust start.