Let's talk cranberry cultivars

If you’re growing cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpum) in your home garden, and especially if you’re growing multiple selections I’d love to hear from you about their performance.

I’m currently growing the following:

  • ‘Stevens’ - I’ve been growing this the longest in among my carnivorous plants. It grows prolifically and beautifully as a trailing vine, but it produces few flowering uprights and of the flowers it does produce, very few materialize into fruit. I’ve gotten less than a half dozen berries off it over many years.
  • ‘Pilgrim’ - I’m growing this in a wine barrel based bog and it grows slower than ‘Stevens’, but produces lots of uprights which produce lots of flowers right from year one. I’ve gotten great production from it every year since I’ve planted it!
  • ‘Bergman’ - (In a large pot) I got this from the USDA and so far I haven’t gotten flowers so I haven’t been able to evaluate fruit set.
  • ‘Early Black’ - (In a large pot) I got this from the USDA and so far I haven’t gotten flowers so I haven’t been able to evaluate fruit set.
  • ‘Ben Lear’ - (In a small pot) I just got this last year as a tiny plant so can’t say much about it yet.
  • ‘Hamilton’ - Growing among my carnivorous plants. I haven’t had this long, but this is a compact ornamental cultivar that seems to produce ONLY uprights with no long trailing shoots. It takes the form of a super tiny, mini-shrub. While it’s intended to be an ornamental, the nursery I got it from claims it will set fruit too.
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I planted a Ben Lear plug last year. It’s only about doubled in size so far so I doubt I’ll get any berries this season. I may add another variety but my acidic should space is dwindling fast. Ironically I planted a wintergreen berry plug at the same time and got two handfuls of berries off it it’s first year.

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Gophers wiped out my carefully prepared bed of a dozen or so plants shortly after I planted it.

For about 10 years I grew a 20x20 plot of Stevens cranberries. I planted the bed from starts from Raintree, spacing them 12" apart in slits in black plastic to avoid the hassle of weeding. At year 3, I removed the plastic, covered the sprawling stems with sand, and let the bed fill in. The canes started fruiting about then. By year 5 the bed was a solid carpet of 3" tall cranberry plants. Then I began to understand why farmers flood their cranberry bogs! Crawling around to pick individual berries hidden under the leaves(they do not ripen all at once) was labor intensive. I mused about rigging up some barrier I could flood, but never could figure out the logistics. By year 10, I removed the bed.
People often commented on the lovely look of the bed and I can confirm that they make a beautiful ground cover!

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Thanks for sharing your experience! I am excited now to have a few Pilgrim growing amongst my blueberries that I just planted.

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That sounds like a good idea around blueberries. I use strawberries and they work very well. I will send you a couple white D plants this spring. Those are excellent ground cover.
If anybody needs White D pine berries and have a strawberry for me. I’ll trade. I’m staring a new bed this spring and need plants.
The White D’s escaped into my raspberry bed and give me an endless supply of plants to trade. It’s interesting to note that here White D is extremely well adapted. Most strawberries spread some but begin to disappear. That is not the case with white D despite me removing them they have spread throughout my garden. The berries are soft but extremely
tasty! Fruits like a beast!!

On cranberries the raw berries I can buy are so good I never considered growing.
I love cranberries. Now rhubarb is another story. I grow my own.

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I love wintergreen, but although they always come loaded with fruit the first year, I’ve struggled to keep them healthy after planting as they always get either uprooted by moles or fried during the dry months of summer. I have a couple which are barely hanging onto life, but so far I’ve never gotten meaningful production from them besides year one. :frowning:

Did they destroy by chewing or by digging through and uprooting?

I’ve never tried doing a large bed of cranberries cause where I am it would be a real struggle to keep them from getting overtaken by weeds, but raised bog barrels seem to work well. I’m actually planning to do a large planter with Sarracenia and cranberries soon where the cranberries can trail attractively over the edges, but I’m still unsure of which of my newer cranberry varieties will be most deserving of that prime growing container. Have you ever tried any cultivars other than ‘Stevens’? I’m suspecting ‘Stevens’ might be good for commercial purposes because it can spread so vigorously to keep the ground covered, but for smaller scale in home gardens I think slower spreading types that can be kept in large containers and focus their energy into fruiting uprights might be more rewarding.

Is ‘Pilgrim’ your only variety so far? If so it’s a pretty good first choice from what I can tell.

I looked up ‘White D’ after seeing your post. It sounds better than pineberry varieties I’ve seen for sale in the past. Do you think it’s self fertile (I thought pineberries typically required cross pollination)? Also, with the white color do you find it is any less prone to getting chewed on by critters prior to picking?

Yes it is. My coworker chose it, and I grabbed a few from his order.

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I don’t know? I have strawberries all over. I have never had a problem with them fruiting. One small patch is just White D, and the closest strawberry is 30 feet away. Probably close enough.
The only problem I have is with Robins, other berry eating birds like Cardinals are too shy to ever stay long. Both my dogs are trained to chase the birds out. Robins walk in, sneak in, but the dogs know their call, so they go to work. The cardinals don’t come back, but the robins never give up. So for a couple years the robins just passed them by. Not anymore. I must net mine.

To sort of stay on subject do birds go for cranberries?

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Well… my poultry goes for cranberries. Last year they got out and ate almost all the cranberries. I don’t remember if it was the ducks, the chickens or both, but I think it was most likely the ducks. I forgive them though. I’ve never seen wild birds take any of the cranberries.

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At least you reap the rewards of eggs from those berries!

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