Blueberry Variety Trial For Houston Tx

blueboy1977(TX9A/B)May 17, 2013

I finally have narrowed the SHB vareities down. Im currently selling of some of my plants and keeping the ones the family liked the most. Hopefully this post can help a few people in deciding what varieties to get for the Houston area. Keep in mind everyones tastes are different so this is a concensis between 4 mouths at my house. My descriptions are kinda vage but Im not sure exactly how to describe every sensation I get when eating these things. I did my best and hated every minute of it;-) LOL! Also keep in mind most all of these plants came from Florida Hill Nusery and some from Just Fruits and Exotics. I believe almost all the varieties from FHN are spot on. I only had 2 varieties from them that I know for a fact are not true.

I will start with the earliest varieties I have.

Spring High- Early fruit with great size, very juicy (some might say watery here) with great flavor. The plant its self holds up well to our heat and humidity. No leaf fungus issues or heat stress at all. Its a keeper

Snowchaser- Early fruit of medium size, juicy with the best flavor of all my plants. This one was really a suprise as I had 2 of them and sold one not expecting it to be as good as it was. Wish I had the other one back at this point. The flavor is strong and robust plus its sweet. My oldest son said it tasted manly compaired to all the others. Only complaint about this plant is leaf fungus issues. Im going to try and remedy this by pruning to a open center as this is where the fungus tends to accumulate. Definatly a keeper.

Misty- This plant is very distinct in flavor and looks. The berry is large, firm, sweet, tangy, airomatic and very distinct. I didnt really like it at first but it grew on me. Grows very well here. No heat or fungus issues. Its a keeper to round off my early varieties.

Mid/Early varieties.

Premadonna- Not imprressed with this one. To my taste it was juicy, gritty, bland to tangy. Not much flavor. Just not the quality Im looking for. Its gone.

Emerald- The plant its self is very impressive. Spreading with thick canes and very strong. Huge berries with nice sweet tart to sweet flavor but can be alittle mushy. Thats the only draw back I can find. Puts out more pounds of berries than any other plant I have. Alot more! No fungus or heat stress symptoms. Its a keeper!

FHN Windsor- Definatly not Windsor. Growth, leafs, berries and berry ripening times do not mesh at all with the for sure Windsor from JF&E. None the less, its a good berry just dont know what it is. Cant match it up with any other variety I have. It pops like a grape so the skin is alittle tougher than normal but its semi firm, kinda meaty with a tangy sweet flavor and really good. No fungus or heat stress problems. Its a keeper!

Jewel- I really like this plant. Very distinct looking plant. The fruit is soft and juicy with a tangy sweet flavor. Big berries and lots of them. I have noticed some leaf spotting on the spring flush. Mostly on lower mature leafs. Looks more like a bacterial thing than fungus. No heat stress. Im keeping it.

Sharpblue- Not 100% sure this is sharpblue. It really resembles Emerald in growth, leaf shape and berry shape. Some berries seem to be wider than tall plus the size of the berries is impressive like Emerald. On the other hand some of the berries are more round. Kind of a mix. The flavor doesnt match Emerald. It tastes alittle bit different but its soft fruit with good flavor. Probably getting rid of this one.

Scintilla- Nice plant. Kinda of a small stature plant with skinny branches and small to medium leafs. The fruit almost looks white when its ripe from all the bloom on the fruit. Medium size berries, good flavor, sweet, meaty but a little gritty at the end. Still a great berry to me. No fungus or heat stress symptoms. Im keeping it.

Abundance- The tallest growth of the 2 year old plants I have. Strong up right growth. The berry pops when you bite it, meaty, gritty and more tart that sweet for me but a very good flavor. No fungus or heat stress symptoms. Its a keeper!

Uknown Variety from FHN- Im gonna say its either Emerald or Sharpblue from compairing those varieties I have. Thats if the Sharpblue is true to type.

Sweetcrisp- What can I say other than wow!!! Hands down the best over all berry I have and everyone who has had them feels the same. I can't keep my Dad, Wife, Kids or my self from gravitating to that plant right off the bat. I like the weeping growth pattern it displays aswell. Easy to prune, no fungus problems at all, alittle heat stress when it gets hot but doesnt seem to effect the plant in a negative way. New growth will wilt but springs right back a soon as it cools in the eveining. No leaf tip burning either from the wilting. Not only keeping it, but getting more of them;)

Mid to Late Varieties

Bountiful Blue- Impressive plant from a looks stand point but after tasting all these other varieties the berries are not impressive. The skin is tougher than most with a very tangy taste, airomatic flavor with floral after taste. Diffinatly distinct but not worth it to me. For one it gets powdery mildew on the leafs pretty bad in the summer and fall. Plus it had a lot of fruit buds not even open for me this year and I think that the mildew might have had something to do with this. Its gone.

Gulf Coast- Ive given this plant 3 years to impress me but Im done with it. Had bad stem blight problems right of the bat with this one but hasnt showed its self in 2 seasons now. The plant has grown well but the fruit quailty isnt up to par. Its gritty, mushy, tangy and very bland on flavor. Plus stems want to stay attached at picking and it drops fruit like crazy thats not even ripe yet. Its gone!

Windsor- Nice stout plant with big juicy/watery fruit but very bland on flavor for me. Its actually one of the least flavorfull berries I have other than Premadonna and Gulf
Coast. Kinda suprised me. I thought being a newer variety and every thing Ive read about it. The expectations were pretty high for this one. It let me down! Its gone.

Southmoon- I like the looks of this plant. Very ornamental. The berries are large, meaty to watery, very distinct flavor, pops when you bite it so the skin is a little tough, very airomatic flavor. I thinks its okay for flavor, it diffinatly jumps out at you. My oldest son said it has the after taste of the way bleach smells. Hes says get rid of it but I like it. It puts out a good amount of fruit later than most so Im gona keep it. Plus its a 3 to 4 year old plant thats 6ft tall by 5ft wide and will have some pounds on it next season. Keeper.

Last but not least Sunshine Blue- Over all one of the best berries I have. Me and the wife were out there snacking on this plant yesterday and both agreed its one of the best we got. Its a late variety with alot of medium size, very flavorful, firm, sweet tart fruit. One of the best of my collection.

Sorry if your tired of reading yet. Im tired of typing and my brain hurts. Need to eat some more berries! So the over all best is Sweetcrisp, hands down! Best flavor goes to Snowchaser!

Over all Keepers
Sweetcrisp
Snowchaser
SpringHigh
Jewel
FHN Windsor?
Emerald
Sunshine Blue
Misty
Scintilla
Abundance
Southmoon

Loosers
Premadonna
Windsor
Bountiful Blue
GulfCoast
Sharpblue

Rabbiteyes are next!

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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

Thanks for a great report!

I've got a question about Springhigh. Is yours an open bush with only a few shoots and low to moderate yield? I've got one from FHN and I do like the fruit. In fact I think it's the variety I got initially from FHN instead of Sweetcrisp. I could post a picture of my plants if needed. They have a pretty unique bush.

My Snowchaser isn't early this year. But it's another from FHN so who knows if it's right.

What I'm sure about is that Sweetcrisp is sensational for me this year. But have found it doesn't set well in a greenhouse without bees. Not sure if wind outside would aid pollination.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2013 at 6:11PM
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blueboy1977(TX9A/B)

Your description of Springhigh sounds right. Mine is going on its second year now so the plant is very young. It grew open naturally and was very easy to prune, large berries and moderate yield compared to Jewel/Emerald. I really liked the plant. It's a must have for a early variety

    Bookmark   May 17, 2013 at 6:33PM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)

Blueboy,

I agree with you on most all points except for Windsor....I LOVE the berries on those bushes. Are you sure your Windsor is a Windsor?

Steve,

Define set well? It is not a big producer as it is so curious what your yield was. For me I would say the yield on sweetcrisp is half of what say Emerald produces.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2013 at 7:20PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

Mine this year is about 5% of Star. When pollinated more like that 50%. A lot of berries fell off. But I'll get it pollinated another year and don't need much yield as good as it is.

Emerald and Jewel also set about 10-20% of normal. Star set every berry with no pollination.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2013 at 8:03PM
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Bradybb WA-Zone8

Thanks blueboy,
I'll have to check out a few of those.Can a person get Snowchaser online right now? Thanks,Brady

    Bookmark   May 17, 2013 at 9:53PM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)

Brady,

Fallcreek in OR is licensed to propagate Snowchaser. They don't sell retail but if contacted they may tell you who you can get the plants from in your area or mailorder closer to you. Other than that the rest of the license holders are all in Florida.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2013 at 10:14PM
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Bradybb WA-Zone8

Thanks bamboo_rabbit,but I'm fairly certain that on their website was posted that the public couldn't contact them,but I'll check again. Thanks,Brady

    Bookmark   May 17, 2013 at 10:27PM
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MrClint

Great post blueboy1977! I only have six BB in pots and that's enough for me to keep watered and tended to. Love the ones I have though.

Always good to know how well SHB BB do in other locales. I'm especially drawn to the common, proven, cheaper and easier to obtain varieties, which leaves me wondering why you haven't tried O'Neal. They are big and juicy here with a lot of flavor, and they are sold just about everywhere. Reveille has been very good for me as well, but not nearly as common.

I agree 100% about Misty. When my plant was young it was tart as can be, but now it has settled in as an outstanding berry. I'm also in agreement on Sunshine Blue -- really a fine berry and handsome plant.

I haven't tried anything from your loser list, but do recall all kinds of hype somewhere for Bountiful Blue.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2013 at 11:10PM
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blueboy1977(TX9A/B)

Bam, Im pretty sure the Windsor from JF&E is true to type, not 100% but that goes with every variety I have except Sunshine and Sweetcrisp, they are pretty obvious. Everything Ive read and pictures Ive seen confirm this. Now the Windsor from FHN is 100% not the same Windsor from JF&E. If the FHN Windsor it true to type then yes, I agree its a very good berry. I ate a handful more this morning just cause I can ;) and there not a bad berry, just not as good as most the others Im growing. My family all agreed as well. Different locations may be to blame? Maybe watering to often? Ive been watering every other day for the last month as temps have been close to 85 degrees miday plus windy. This particular plant has been in a 15 gallon pot for 2 seasons now and is very thirsty every other day.

Brady, I looked at the FHN web site and they show to have Snow Chaser in stock. If its not Snow Chaser chances are you will get the same variety I have.

MrClint, I have tasted Oneal several times at a local nursery and agree its delicious! Intially I was turned off by reports of it having low yeilds so didnt include that vareity. That was 3 years ago though and wouldnt mind trying it in the future. Plus chill hours were on the high side for my averages here but if your growing it in Zone 10...? Ive been interested in Reveille for a while just havent pulled the trigger due to chill hour concerns and the fact that I had enough to deal with already. I see my self trying more varieties in the future after thinning the herd I have now. There was a lot of hype about Bountiful and it is a stunning plant for ornamental purposes no doubt. For the average home owner who wants a edible and ornamental plant you cant go wrong with it although I think it would be more rewarding of a plant in a dryer climate than Houston Tx.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2013 at 8:26AM
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shazaam(NC 7B)

Brady -- In addition to FHN, it looks like you can buy a Snowchaser from Island Grove Ag Products (link below). They're offering gallon plants for $8.90.

Here is a link that might be useful: Snowchaser - 1 Gallon

    Bookmark   May 18, 2013 at 10:13AM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

Snowchaser is also listed by True Blue plants.

My Snowchaser from FHN is about the latest blooming variety I have so it's something else. I don't think I got any Sweetcrisp from FHN in two tries.

Thanks to FHN I don't really know what half my blueberries are and it's guessing to do that many.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2013 at 11:23AM
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Bradybb WA-Zone8

Thanks shazaam,but I was trying to order Sweetcrisp from Island Grove last year and at checkout,Washington State is omitted from their list.It seems that Fall Creek has things bottled up for the Pacific Northwest.
I'll take another look at Island Grove and True Blue Plants.
FHN may be my only option,but I almost cringe at that name. Brady

    Bookmark   May 18, 2013 at 12:01PM
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shazaam(NC 7B)

Thanks shazaam,but I was trying to order Sweetcrisp from Island Grove last year and at checkout,Washington State is omitted from their list.

I'd forgotten about that, Brady. I'll probably be placing an order with Island Grove in the near future and, If it's feasible and of interest to you, I'll be happy to order an extra Snowchaser and forward it on to you. Just let me know...

    Bookmark   May 18, 2013 at 12:19PM
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persianmd2orchard

How much acid does snowchaser have? It's not straight through sweet like O'neal is it? That is my only pet peave with blueberries is completely acidless ones. Otherwise, I'm puttin it on the wish list!

    Bookmark   May 18, 2013 at 12:27PM
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blueboy1977(TX9A/B)

Persian, when picked a tad bit early it had a nice blueberry tang to it with the strong flavor. As it ripens more it does tend to loose the tang but the flavor is really good. I guess you could kinda compair it to Oneal in that respect. I remember Oneal having a very good flavor as well as sweet.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2013 at 12:42PM
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shazaam(NC 7B)

Thanks for taking the time to type this up, blueboy. I've been planning to try some of the low chill SHB varieties, so this has really helped me to narrow my focus a bit. I look forward to your rabbiteye report!

    Bookmark   May 18, 2013 at 1:13PM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)

Blueboy,

That is the major problem with the BB.....can't tell them apart except for a couple of them. I would trust the people at JF&E completely but having been there and seeing the setup the BB varieties are right next to each other and it would be easy to get them mixed up. Could just be a matter of different palates as well.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2013 at 2:16PM
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blueboy1977(TX9A/B)

No problem Shazaam, I enjoyed every minute of it and if I helped one person it was all worth it. Now I need some newer varieties to start over again.

Bam, Im going to take some current pics of both of the Windsors so we can confirm it for sure. Im almost %100 sure the one from JF&E is true, but I want a positive identification. Your the man for that job as you have many of them. I think the berry shape and calayx patterns are pretty unique from one variety to the next (at least a lot of them) and from what I can see Windsor seems to have a pretty unique berry. Maybe we can nail this one down! Any word on Raven?

    Bookmark   May 18, 2013 at 3:08PM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)

The Ravens are under construction:) They won't be available until fall or early winter. The only unknown is how many I can get.

According to Dr. Lyrene the climate and conditions the BB grows under has a marked effect on the plant and fruit. So??? We had a nice chat about it when we were trying to ID the plants Fruitnut and Hoosier got from FHN. He could not ID them and he is probably the worlds top authority on SHB.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2013 at 3:56PM
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blueboy1977(TX9A/B)

I wonder if there is a way to find out who supplies FHN with all there tissue cultured plants and maybe speak with them alittle. Who ever supplies them with the tissue culture may be able to answer some questions?

    Bookmark   May 18, 2013 at 4:03PM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)

It is probably agristarts.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2013 at 5:42PM
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Bradybb WA-Zone8

shazaam,
Okay,that may work.Let me know when your order is going in.If possible,I may want to get a few other varieties also. Thanks,Brady

    Bookmark   May 18, 2013 at 10:02PM
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sandiego4s

I got my Snowchaser from Home Depot by chance early last year. I thought it was Sunshine Blue but noticed the label on the container at home later. It's two weeks earlier than Emerald with media to small berries. I would believe it is Snowchaser.

I bought a Sweetcrispt plant from Botanical Growers this April. It is the only place I can buy a Sweetcrisp blueberry. No berry yet. Hope it is a real Sweetcrisp.

Here is a link that might be useful: Botanical Growers

    Bookmark   May 19, 2013 at 2:23PM
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shazaam(NC 7B)

I just sent you an e-mail, Brady...

    Bookmark   May 19, 2013 at 5:33PM
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insteng

Thanks for the list Blueboy. I only have a couple of BB plants right now though this winter I'm supposed to get several from a neighbor from a commercial orchard that a friend of his owns. It is nice to get plants free. I'll have to see what varities he has available. At least I have a start of what types to look for.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2013 at 9:52AM
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blueboy1977(TX9A/B)

Sandiego4, have you got to taste Snowchaser yet? If so have you compared it to other varieties you have and your conclusion?

Insteg, free plants are the best plants! What zone and state are you in?

    Bookmark   May 20, 2013 at 12:06PM
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sandiego4s

Blueboy, my Snowchaser tastes better than Emerald and an unknow variety from Home Depot, sweeter and less tart. It's roughly about the same or a little better than South Moon. They are all on their 2nd year and South Moon does not have a lot of berries on it. The Snowchaser plant is the most vigorous among my four blueberry plants last year. It also has a spreading habit.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2013 at 12:51PM
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insteng

"Insteg, free plants are the best plants! What zone and state are you in?"
I have 56 acres about 2 hours north of Houston. I've been busy planting a home orchard out there. So far I have about 2 dozen different fruit trees I've planted out there. I know the blueberries grow excellent there. My neighbor has bushes that are about 8' tall. Though this year a late freeze got all his blueberries.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2013 at 2:42PM
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blueboy1977(TX9A/B)

Insteng, that's sucks about your neighbors berries. I don't think I'm going to have to many problems with late freezes where I'm at. I'm about 1 mile from Galveston bay and 500 yards from a big bayou so it's usually 8-10 degrees warmer here than down town Houston. As far north as you are from Houston I don't think I would chance putting Southern High Bush blues in the ground. They usually flower for me late Jan through Feb. I would think in your location flowering would probably be early feb to mid March. I know y'all normally have late cold snaps north of Houston and that would wipe you out every year. Pots would probably be best unless you can throw up some kind of plastic tunnel to protect them if in ground. I know Rabbiteyes grow great up there in the piney woods and they flower later than SHB.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2013 at 11:24PM
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shazaam(NC 7B)

For those of you with low-chill SHB experience, if you had to pick one variety to pair with Sweetcrisp (something with a similar bloom time), what would it be? Based on your descriptions above, blueboy, as well as what I've read elsewhere, I'm leaning toward Jewel...

    Bookmark   May 21, 2013 at 12:55PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

Well Jewel is a pretty good contrast in berry to Sweetcrisp as it's soft and tart vs the sweet and crisp. Not my kind of berry. I prefer Emerald over Jewel. But if my Springhigh is correctly marked that would be my choice.

Another berry no one talks about is Santa Fe. It's soft but second sweetest to Sweetcrisp. In terms of yield and berry size it's about 80% of Emerald with a much sweeter berry.

Star is also a high yielding plant with a good berry.

Bloom dates vary quit a bit for me depending on several factors.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2013 at 1:05PM
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rayrose(8)

What is the zone limit for growing SHB. I'm in zone 8 in central SC and have a number of rabbit eyes and would like to try some SHB. I know some of you guys are in Florida, but would they work for me? Shazaaam, do you grow them?

    Bookmark   May 21, 2013 at 5:57PM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)

I have 51 sweetcrisp so you can tell I like them:) I prefer a sweeter berry with good blueberry flavor and of my bushes the one I like the second best would be 86-19 (V1) but that one would be a real toughie to find. It has an awesome blueberry taste but not quite as sweet as sweetcrisp. Third would be Windsor and fourth Sunshineblue.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2013 at 5:59PM
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shazaam(NC 7B)

Thanks for your suggestions, bamboo and fruitnut. Given the accolades, I'm very, very anxious to try Sweetcrisp. I should have bought one last year, but better late than never. I've seen a lot of praise for Jewel's flavor, but, based on your description, fruitnut, I might be happier with another variety. I had my eye on Star and Windsor, so I might go with one or both of those. Have either of you (or anyone else) tried Palmetto? From what I can read, it gets very high marks for flavor.

As for your question, rayrose, I do have a couple of potted SHB (O'Neal and Southmoon). The lower chill varieties like Sweetcrisp worry me a little bit because of early bloom times, but I can't resist trying them. I already have to protect some of my early bloomers (mostly rabbiteyes), though, so it shouldn't be too much trouble. I used a heavy weight frost blanket over a small greenhouse frame last winter, and that worked very well.

This post was edited by shazaam on Tue, May 21, 13 at 21:26

    Bookmark   May 21, 2013 at 9:21PM
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