Designer strawberries?

In past years, we have had a few handfuls of strawberries from our own garden, but no yield to write home about. This was no mystery: our strawberry plants were a mix of June-bearing varieties and, more importantly, they were in a spot where they didn’t get nearly enough sun. Now that the rock beds have been rebuilt, we have what we hope will be the perfect sunny spot for a row of strawberries. Because strawberry plants don’t keep producing well when they get older, we decided to start with new plants. This was a good opportunity to switch from a June-bearing to an ever-bearing variety. The particular variety recommended for us on Salt Spring was Albion, to be ordered from the G.W. Allen Nursery in Nova Scotia.

“Albion strawberries” by chez pim is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

When we received our order confirmation, we were surprised to see a “royalty fee”; it wasn’t a large amount for our small order, but, novices that we are, we didn’t know strawberries could come with royalty fees! It turns out the Albion cultivar is one of the patented strawberry cultivars of the University of California. Only licensed nurseries can sell these patented cultivars and, in Canada, the licensed nurseries are all in Nova Scotia, Ontario, Québec, and Prince Edward Island. Even though we are on the West Coast, ordering directly from California is prohibitively expensive for a backyard gardener because of the requirement of a phytosanitary certificate for plant imports into Canada.

Lasse Canyon Nursery, a nursery in California that is also on the University of California’s licenced nurseries list, explains the difference between June-bearing (also known as “short-day”) and ever-bearing (also known as “day-neutral”) varieties:

Short day or “June Bearing” strawberries produce a single, large crop per year during a 2–3-week period in the spring. June bearers are the traditionally grown plants, producing a single flush of flowers and many runners. … Day-neutral strawberries will continue to set and ripen fruit all summer long until a hard frost puts them into dormancy. Day-neutral refers to the light sensitivity of the variety. Day-neutral strawberries will blossom and set fruit no matter how long or short the days are.

We expect to receive our strawberry plants in early April, and know we need to plant them immediately upon receiving them. G.W. Allen further instructs: “In the year of planting, all flowers should be removed until July 1, after which time the plants are allowed to flower and set fruit.” So, we will keep fingers crossed that the plants arrive in good condition and that we may be able to eat our first home-grown Albion strawberry in late summer.