There is hardly anything to me that can beat the incredibly wonderful flavor of a sweet ripe strawberry that has been ripened fresh on the plant. While store bought strawberries are good, they just can’t match the sweetness and flavor of a strawberry grown and ripened right on the plant. Strawberries are definitely one of my most favorite of berries. So, I knew I needed to include them in my edible landscaping. The problem is that most of the strawberry plants you find are June bearing or everbearing varieties that require full sun and quickly spread in a seasons time via runners to consume all the space they can. That isn’t exactly something you would use in your typical yard landscape.
However, there are a couple of other options, namely musk (Fragaria moschata) or alpine (Fragaria vesca) strawberries . Both types can still produce incredibly flavored berries in partial sun settings, meaning they can be grown as ground covers under larger plants. While the berries are smaller in size, they have an even stronger strawberry flavor. It is as if all that flavor and sweetness of a larger berry was compacted into a smaller size. Some alpine strawberries are grown commercially for gourmet cooking. Musk strawberries spread by runners, just like their cousins you find at most nurseries, but the alpine strawberries spread by slow expansion of roots or by seeds. I’ve tried both musk and alpine and by far prefer the alpine strawberries for landscaping.
Since Alpine strawberries don’t send out runners, you can use them as edging plants, groundcovers, and so on, without worrying about them taking over and spreading into unwanted areas.
My alpine strawberries plants have been able to grow lots and lots of berries in almost full shade, with their berry producing season starting as early as May and ending as late as December. They've even been nicknamed by some as the "perpetual strawberry". Out of the 5 different kinds of strawberries I grow, my alpines beat all the others in overall berry production. I’ve found myself growing tired of picking strawberries every few days for months of time. Though, be warned, the berries are smaller, so it will take more if considering volume.
I prefer using my alpine strawberries as flavoring in things like strawberry shakes, strawberry-rhubarb pie or cobbler, or part of a berry jam. Since the flavor is stronger it takes less berries to have a good strawberry flavor. I've found that I like to wait until the berries are soft to the touch and at their maximum sweetness before picking them and either using them in some fruity wonder, or freezing them for later use.
I am really excited; since it looks like I will start getting alpine strawberries in something like a couple of weeks. My plants are loaded with blossoms and I can see berries already forming.
I’m growing both the red and white/yellow variety of alpine strawberries. I prefer the red, since I’ve found it more difficult to tell when the white/yellow variety is ripe. The white/yellow variety has a slightly sweeter almost pineapple-ish flavor to it. If you have a problem with birds eating your strawberries, you might find better luck with the white/yellow variety, since I’ve heard that birds tend to leave it alone.
Alpine strawberry plants are very hardy. The plants like humus-rich, acid soil in a sheltered site in sun or partial shade. They are hardy to zone 4. If you want more, simply divide one of the plants and plant the divisions in the locations you would like them. You will find that if you miss picking some berries that little strawberry seedlings will grow where the berries fell the following spring. It is not difficult to grow alpine strawberries from seed if you remember to freeze the seed for 3 to 4 weeks before sowing.
The alpine strawberry plant is sometimes used as an herbal medicine, via an herbal tea made from the leaves, stems, and/or flowers, which is believed to aid in the treatment of diarrhea. I haven't tried this myself, but might try experimenting with it in the future.
Apr 25, 2007 | 10:18 AM PST
I'd like to try the alpine, divaqs. We grow the Hood but we don't have alot of sunny space for them. I too think strawberries make a nice edging plant. I have a part-sun bed that I could edge in alpines. Thanks for blogging about berries!
Sep 29, 2008 | 6:46 AM PST
I have started my first planting of white alpine seeds. I'm using a window box and the seeds have germinated. I'm patiently waiting for them to keep growing because they're still tiny sprouts. I'm in zone 4 and am hoping I have success with them. I found your blog helpful. Peace and good planting!
Apr 21, 2009 | 7:14 AM PST
Well, it's now April 2009 and I think I failed with my first attempt at white alpines. I was able to get ahold of some more seeds so I made a second attempt. A few weeks ago I uncovered the sprouts and they were virtually gone within one week's time. I'm very sad about this because I was so looking forward to being able to make this work. Now I'm going to need to resort to buying expensive plants to use.