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The third Lubera UK Facebook live show


In this week’s Facebook show, Markus was filming live in the garden of Lubera’s German nursery. Lubera is a Swiss company, but Switzerland became too small for Markus and all his plants, so he started the German nursery. Plants for British customers are despatched from Germany, although some of them will have first made the trip from the Swiss nursery to Germany. It was raining in Germany on Tuesday, but Markus is a hardy plant, so he carried on with the show, answering questions posed by Lubera fans. You can watch the show here.

Is it possible to plant kiwis on the north side of the house?

Markus talks about the issues with growing the familiar kiwis, with their large fuzzy fruits, on the north side of the house. That’s Actinidia deliciosa.

But there are new kiwi species available now, which would do better in this situation.

Firstly, there’s the berry kiwis, Actinidia arguta. We tend to call these cocktail kiwis, and they grow smaller fruits, which don’t have furry skin - you can eat the whole thing. The fruits ripen earlier in the year.

Alternatively, you can choose summer kiwis - Actinidia kolomikta. These are the ones with the colourful leaves, although they’ll be less colourful in the shade. The fruits normally ripen in August; they’ll be a bit later in a shady spot.

How do you move plants to a new house?

Markus has heard on the radio that the average German moves house/apartment 6-8 times during their life. According to a 2012 poll I found, that’s similar to Brits - we tend to move 8 times. And, of course, when we move we all want to take our favourite plants with us.

So Markus talks about the right time to move plants, and the need for pruning them to reduce the strain on the roots once you’ve dug them up.

Do you cut asparagus to have more shoots, or let it grow, if you want more shoots? When can you start harvesting stems?

It’s asparagus season here in the UK, and the same is true in Germany and Switzerland. But do you need to keep cutting the spears, to encourage more to grow, or do you need to stop and let the plant grow?

Markus explains that the spears develop into the leaves that the plant uses to make and store energy - so if you want the plant to grow big and strong (and produce more spears) then you need to give it a chance to grow!

Lubera asparagus plants are sold at 2-3 years old, in big 3L pots, so you can start harvesting them from the second year you have them. But only a modest harvest, then stop and let it grow.

Blackcurrants for flavour

Blackcurrant breeding is one of Markus’ passions, and he breeds better blackcurrants for gardeners, with delicious fruits that can be eaten fresh.

The two best varieties for eating fresh are Noiroma and Nimue. Noiroma fruits have very high sugar levels, and they have less of the slightly bitter blackcurrant flavour, so this is the variety to choose if you like your fruits sweeter. If you like your blackcurrants to have a really blackcurranty flavour, then go for Nimue, which also has more compact growth.

Late Night isn’t quite as nice to eat fresh as the other varieties, but it ripens in August  - very late - when you wouldn’t normally have blackcurrants.

And Markus talks about two newer varieties, Blackbells and Black marble. Again, these are not quite as nice for eating fresh off the plant, but they are more productive and have larger fruits. Blackbells is particularly productive; Black marble has the largest fruits ever bred!

So there’s a blackcurrant to suit everybody.

Why is my Pointilla losing its flowers?

The Pointillas (Dotberries) are Eleagnus umbellata, a new fruit species Lubera are introducing to their range. These are fantastic plants, blooming in April/May, with grey flowers that turn yellow. Then the blooms fall, and there’s nothing to see for several weeks, but rest assured that the fruits are there and will develop in August and September, turning red or yellow. These are late ripening fruits, ready in October/November. Their sweetness develops practically overnight, and then the ripe berries are very sweet and very acid, with a little astringency - a very interesting flavour.

You do need two different varieties for them to form fruits, but you can plant them just 50cm apart. So you can grow two red varieties, e.g. Sweet & Sour and Amoroso, or you can mix-and-match Sweet & Sour with the yellow Fortunella.

Are Firstberries damaged by spring frosts?

Firstberries are Lonicera cerulea, also known as Mayberries, or Siberian blueberries (and as honeyberries in the UK).

Markus shows us a plant that is beginning to fruit now, even though there were frosts in Switzerland when it was in flower - they have a lot of resistance to spring frosts.

The first varieties that came onto the market (10-20 years ago) came from Russia/Siberia. They fruit very early and the plant is done for the year, and it’s quite ugly.

Lubera have found other varieties, originally from Japan and selected in Oregon, USA. They bloom a bit later, March/April, fruiting in June rather than May. They also have better fruit quality, bigger fruits, and are a more ornamental plant.

What’s wrong with my RedLove?

Markus has been sent a picture of a RedLove apple tree that’s not doing too well. He thinks it might be a bacterial infection, and suggests pruning it back to healthy wood, and then sterilising the tools (and hands!). If the new growth is healthy then the tree will be OK; if not it will have to be destroyed.

Why don’t figs flower? Where does the fruit come from?

This is a really interesting segment on fig evolution, and fig pollination. Markus talks about how fig flowers form inside the fruits that we see. In wild fruits (caprifigs), the flowers are pollinated by an insect - the fig wasp.

Smyrna figs evolved from wild figs, and have larger blooms and larger fruits that are sweet and juicy. But they still need pollinating by those fig wasps.

At some point, a fig developed from Smyrna figs, that didn’t need pollination to fruit, and these are the fig varieties grown in more northern countries. Producing fruit without pollination is called parthenocarpy.

That’s it for this show. If you have a question for Markus, then ask it in on the Lubera UK Facebook page now and Markus will answer it in next week’s show, which will be live at 6pm BST on Tuesday.

Emma Cooper





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