Not sure you are ready to pull out your shrubs, flowers and/or lawn, but like the idea of home-grown edibles? I have the perfect thing for you: blueberry bushes! They are ornamental with small white flowers in the spring and beautifully-colored leaves in the fall plus, of course, blueberries in the summer. They are easy to grow in the Northwest. They love our acid soil and rainy climate, but tolerate our dry summers well. They need a minimum of pruning but will stay at a reasonable height. They also have very few pests or diseases (except birds, but see below for more on that).
There are many varieties that will grow to differing heights and have berries at various times of the summer. I have four different bushes and some start producing in mid-July and the last one finishes in September, although I have actually found some berries still on after the leaves have fallen. Your local nursery will probably have several different varieties, and it is recommended that you plant at least two different varieties to increase your yield. I would add that having two or more bushes will allow you to harvest for a longer time. For a really amazing selection, check out Raintree Nursery, a mail-order nursery based in Morton, Washington. Raintree’s website also has excellent cultivation information, too.
The one drawback to blueberries? The birds love them. You practically have to fight the robins for them, although I have found that one mama robin, her babies, and I can all find enough blueberries on our four bushes. Once the babies have grown up and flown away in late summer, then I am left with most of the blueberries to myself. Other people put netting over their bushes, but I am a lazy gardener and don’t mind sharing with the birds. However, if you want to net them, they would be best up against a fence so you only have to net three sides and can tightly pin it to the fence. The robins are very tenacious and will work to find their way in there.
Fall is a great time to plant shrubs, and blueberries are no exception. The fall rains will allow the plant to settle in before the weather turns cold. So if a beautiful shrub with delicious berries sounds like a good addition to your landscape, check out your local nurseries or Raintree Nursery’s website and see what varieties would fit your yard and your family’s taste. Then start dreaming of blueberry pie!