June, white flowers nestled in leaves; alpine strawberries hanging over container
July, ripened alpine strawberry on plant in ground
November, flower bud on alpine strawberry plant
November, new growth in center
In May I posted a short article about growing alpine strawberries (Fragaria vesca) from seed for the first time: Renee Shepherd’s “Heirloom Pineapple” and “Mignonette” and a package of seeds from Switzerland from a garden club member. All germinated easily under lights in spring and I transplanted the seedlings in May to several spots in the garden as well as a few large containers. Throughout the summer, the kids and I picked the small strawberries which were so cute I thought they could also be used for decorating desserts, cakes and cupcakes. I never had any problems with insects, diseases, or even birds. As of Thanksgiving week, despite nights of twenty degrees and days of thirty degrees, the alpine strawberry plants are not only doing well, they are thriving! Although I knew they were perennials and would survive the winter, I was surprised to see new growth and even a small flower bud so late in the year. The leaves still look fine for late November — I can see why some people recommend them as border plants. You too can grow alpine strawberries; put them on your wish list for 2015! To learn more about what you can grow, read other “you can grow that” posts on the fourth of every month.
Close up of Alpine strawberry leaves
It’s Mother’s Day, time to move the seedlings out into the big wide open garden and hope they do well on their own. Cutting the apron strings for my Alpine strawberry (Fragaria vesca) seedlings has been hard though. For months now, I have been coddling them from seed, growing them under lights, hardening them off on the deck, and protecting them from heavy rains. I first read about them last year in Rosalind Creasy’s Edible Landscaping book, published in 2010. Although Rosalind lives in California, these small, fruit bearing plants seemed perfect for a typical suburban home in Northern Virginia. Coincidentally, my colleague in my garden club had just visited Switzerland and shared the packet she bought but it was too late in the season to start them. This year, Renee’s Garden is offering two types, a yellow fruited variety called Heirloom Pineapple and a red fruited variety called Mignonette. I started the Swiss packet and the two varieties from Renee’s Garden months ago, under lights, and surprisingly they germinated well but the seedlings were very small. After the true leaves appeared, I transferred them to small, plastic containers, still under lights. When the days warmed up in April, I put the tub of containers outside, and even then, only during the day time.
Unlike regular strawberries, Alpine strawberries do not produce runners, are not as productive and have smaller fruit. Also known as fraise des bois, these are herbaceous perennials, hardy to my zone 7. They grow to a mound shape, about 8 inches tall, and prefer well drained soil high in organic matter. In my garden, I will give them morning sun and afternoon shade or dappled shade. I know it looks like I have a lot but I have read that birds like the fruit which hang above the plant like beacons – I am sure the devil squirrel will find them too. To deter such nonsense, I will plant them in various places around the garden and on the deck in containers.
As a “have-to-have-it horticulturist,” I am the type who will read about a plant, buy it, and grow it without having actually tasted the fruit but I have read that the Alpine strawberries are even sweeter than grocery strawberries. According to the Renee’s Garden seed packets (the Swiss packet was not in English), the Heirloom Pineapple tastes like “delectable flavor of pineapples and roses” and the Mignonette has “ambrosial woodland flavor.” I am looking forward to this summer!
Alpine strawberry seedlings in plastic tub