We recently became part of a family of horticulturists who are participating in plant trials with the USDA. Back in March, we took delivery of 55 salix (willow) hardwood cuttings, 11 cultivars of 5 cuttings each, which we’ve started in 3 gallon containers. We’re pleased to report that we have a 100% strike rate. We will plant these out in the fall as part of an erosion control trial (upon which we might put an artistic spin). At the same time we received 18 Ribes hardwood cuttings, consisting of various cultivars of Black currant, Red Currant, White Currant and Gooseberry. Unfortunately, we lost one Blackcurrant and one Gooseberry, but the rest, which are doing very nicely, will be planted into a new fruit garden in the fall and should bear within two years.
When we were invited to trial plants for the USDA, we had many options and approaches to chose from. We were intrigued by the history of many of the plants available to us and decided to trial mostly heritage and heirloom strains from Europe. Many of the cultivars we selected date to the 1800’s ( it's amazing to think that we’re working with material from 19th century Versailles) and have been kept in various controlled plant databanks throughout the US. We’re looking at how they fare in our northeastern climate and will be examining pest problems, plant viruses, hardiness, and, of course, cropping rates.
Today we received a selection of humulus lupulus; Hops, which we will trial to explore the viability of producing locally grown hops for the burgeoning Micro brewery industry here in CT. We expect these to take up a lot of real estate and we’ve not yet worked out the details of where they will, ultimately, be planted but we’re excited about this particular endeavor. It seems that in the brewing industry, the ‘freshness’ of the hops is key to the flavor of the brew and the primary producers, in Orgeon, fall all over themselves in their efforts to provide freshness through all sorts of processing procedures; drying, freezing, freeze-drying, etc…. It will be interesting to see what we can do with truly ‘fresh-off-the-vine’ hops here in CT and we're looking to find a brewer to work with us. (If you know anyone in CT involved in the micro-brew industry please have them contact us).
Meanwhile, softwood cuttings of heirloom cranberry and seeds for native, heirloom blue and black huckleberry have also arrived. Very exciting! We’ll see what success we have with cultivating and rooting in the greenhouse and, if we’re lucky we’ll have plants to put into the bog garden in spring of 2012.
Later in the year we are expecting more cuttings of various trees, including Mulberries. Stay tuned.