Himalayan Huckleberry

Himalayan Huckleberry; or,
Grey-White Huckleberry


"Here's the garden she walked across,
Arm in my arm, such a short while since:
Hark, now I push its wicket, the moss
Hinders the hinges & makes them wince!
She must have reached this shrub ere she turned,
As back with that murmur the wicket swung;
For she laid the poor snail, my chance foot spurned,
To feed & forget it the leaves among."

-Robert Browning
(1812-1889)

   

Vaccinium glauco-album, or Himalayan Huckleberry, is native from Yunnan Province in China, to Bhutan in the eastern Himalayas, to Indo-China. The mountains of Yunnan have provided hundreds of gardened species for western gardens, starting with a large number of rhododendron species, & extending genus-wise into all areas.

Himalayan HuckleberryThis process of discovery began with the great Victorian plant-hunters' journeys into China, & continues to this very day with new discoveries every year.

Arranged plant-hunting expeditions are an important part of the modern economy of the region. Plant-scouts will have beforehand located areas of rich botanical interest, noting what is in bloom or covered with harvestable seeds at what time of year.

Himalayan HuckleberryThen for startling travel-package sums, they will lead the west's eager nurserymen, retirees, & horticultural clubsters to these locations, so that westerners may forever after claim "discovery" of plants some Chinese or Tibetan scout in reality discovered for them.

Although V. glauco-album was first described in literature in 1882, it has not until quite recently begun to find its way into western gardens. It's hardy & extremely easy to grow, but with thousands of garden-appropriate species to choose from, this Himalayan huckleberry was slow to penetrate the marketplace.

After it became a recipient of the Award of Garden Merit in 1993, it began to gain wider notice, & will doubtless continue to increase in popularity & availability in the near future.

It has biggish oval evergreen leaves, two to three inch ovals, nearly round. These leaves are a dark blue-green on top & a pale grey on the underside. The species name "glauco-album" alludes to the blue top (glauco) & white bottom (album) of the leaves.

It is naturally tidy, compact & round, calling for little or no pruning to retain a somewhat formal look.

It is a dwarf shrub, reaching two feet of height in ten years. Similar to our native evergreen huckleberry V. ovatum, when grown in shade V. glauco-album has the potential of growing larger, but in a sunny setting will remain small.

Interesting overlapping flower buds appear in March, shown in the second photograph. These open into small groups of urn-shaped flowers ranging from white with a pinkish glow, to a deeper reddish pink, from April to June. A cluster of these is shown in the third photo. These are followed late in summer by fat, round, edible dark blue-black berries.

   



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