Sea buckthorn is a thorny shrub worth checking out for its numerous vibrant-colored fruits. They’ll brighten up your garden in winter.
Sea buckthorn key facts:
Latin name: Hippophae rhamnoides
Type: shrubby tree
Height: 10 to 16 feet (3 to 5 m)
Soil: light, well-drained, neutral to alkaline pH
Hardiness: hardy – Blooming: spring – Fruiting: fall, winter
Meet Sea Buckthorn
Sea buckthorn foliage is very narrow with a grey-green color.
Fruit shows up in early fall and its red-orange color pops even more when leaves fall. These berries are edible, with a sweet and lovely tangy flavor.
It’s often confused with firethorn due to similar phonetics and appearance, but they are indeed different shrubs.
→ Caution: Italian buckthorn, an unrelated shrub that unfortunately goes by a similar name, has toxic berries.
Planting sea buckthorn
Sea buckthorn, or argousier as we say in French, thrives in all soil types, as long as it’s lightweight and draining. If possible, place it in full sunlight year-round, but it’ll tolerate some shade.
For a fruitful harvest, plant one male for every 5 or 6 females. You’ll thank us later.
When to plant?
Drought-resistant and vigorous, sea buckthorn doesn’t mind whether you plant it in spring or autumn.
How to plant?
- Dig a wide and deep planting hole. No need to measure, just make it spacious.
- If your tree comes in a container, just remove it, free up some roots, and let it loose in its new home.
- If you’ve got a bare root tree, give it a root dip before planting.
- Plant a stake close to the trunk, minding those delicate roots.
- Fill in the hole, pack the soil firmly. Put your back into it!
- Connect the trunk to the stake with a figure “8” tie, knot between stake and tree to avoid any frictions.
Caring for your sea buckthorn
- Formative pruning during initial growth years.
- Getting rid of dead or dangerous branches. Safety first!
- Raising the crown, or removing low branches that get in the way.
Diseases and pests:
Impressively hardy, Hippophae rhamnoides gives pests the cold shoulder and shows no sign of disease.
Using sea buckthorn for landscaping
With its ground-covering root system, sea buckthorn makes it its duty to hold together soil on unstable slopes. Salt and sea spray? No problem, which makes it a superstar for jazzing up a coastal garden.
Want to fully enjoy those bright red-orange fruits in winter? Pair your sea buckthorn with trees or shrubs boasting bright decorative wood, like a colorful bark dogwood (example: Cornus sericea), or yellow wood white willow (Salix alba).
Fruit harvest and preparation
Typically, you’d harvest sea buckthorn berries around October, preferably after the first frost. Picking them isn’t exactly a walk in the park due to the tree’s thorns. But shaking the branches over a ground cloth, will let you collect these tough-to-reach fruits with ease.
After the harvest, feel free to enjoy the berries raw, or try them with yogurt or cereal. They also keep well in juice, syrup, jam, or even frozen.