Climax Blueberry BushVaccinium ashei ‘Climax’
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Vaccinium ashei ‘Climax’
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The Climax Blueberry is a warm-zone blueberry of the rabbit-eye type, considered by many to be the very best of its type. It has a huge crop in June, and a single bush can give you 25 pounds of delicious blueberries. It is also decorative, with a lovely spring blooming and bold orange and red fall colors. It is a full-size bush, potentially reaching 8 to 10 feet tall and wide, so allow plenty of room when planting. Grow it among your acid-loving plants, in a dedicated fruit area, or in a container if you don’t have suitable acid soil.
Grow the Climax Blueberry in full sun, or with just a few hours of shade each day. It is hardy in zone 7, and only needs a limited amount of cold in winter. Grow it in moist but well-drained soil, rich in organic material. The pH value of the soil must be below 5.5 for success, or grow it in a container, using a low-pH soil mix. Pest and diseases are uncommon, and water regularly as this bush is not drought resistant. Prune well-established bushes in early spring.
We might think of blueberries as a northern crop, and it is true that many do need long periods of winter cold to mature and fruit properly. But there are blueberries for the South as well, and Georgia today is among the top five states for blueberry production. This is mainly thanks to the work of Dr. Thomas Brightwell in Georgia, and other breeders, who have turned the rabbit-eye blueberry into a high-yielding bush. Many people say that breeding reached its peak with the introduction of the Climax Blueberry. This highly-rated variety gives big crops of delicious berries of the best quality. It makes sense, if you live in warmer parts of the country, to grow the best, and you can’t beat the Climax Blueberry when it comes to a big harvest of delicious berries. Ready in June, the great thing about blueberries is that no matter how quickly they ripen in the heat of summer, nothing goes to waste. Put them into a box in the freezer – it is best to not even wash them – and they are ready to use for baking without even needing thawing, or a few minutes in the warmth will have them (almost) as good as fresh. So enjoy the Climax berries fresh, and save the surplus for winter – what could be better?
The Climax Blueberry is a rounded deciduous bush that will in time reach 10 feet tall and wide, carrying a crop of 20 to 25 pounds of blueberries on a single bush. It grows at a moderate pace, but it should be giving berries within 2 years of planting. The leaves are up to 3 inches long, with a smooth, slightly glossy surface, New leaves may have reddish tones, but they quickly become a bold dark green. In fall the leaves turn red and orange. Flowers are produced in spring, along with the new leaves, from separate buds on the older stems. Carried in clusters, the white blooms look like tiny hanging bells. This type of blueberry does need another variety with it to produce a good crop, and we recommend planting the ‘Austin’ or ‘Premier’ Blueberry as an ideal pairing – both varieties will then crop well.
The berries of the Climax Blueberry are medium-sized, and a bright blue color, with a white powdery coating. They begin green and ripen to blue in June. When your bush is larger you may find you have too many berries to use fresh, as this variety ripens over a short period. Freeze the surplus and enjoy them out of season.
This attractive bush can be grown as an ornamental shrub in your garden, or in a dedicated fruit garden if you have the room. Plant it at the back of your borders as a backdrop to colorful flowering shrubs. Grow it as a hedge, or outside your kitchen door, where it’s handy for picking.
The Climax Blueberry is hardy, and grows well, in zones 7, 8 and 9. It will also grow in sheltered spots in zone 6. It only needs about 500 hours of low winter temperatures, and it tolerates heat and humidity well.
Full sun will give you the best results from your Climax Blueberry, but it will take a couple of hours of afternoon shade without a problem. The soil must be suitable for good growth. Add plenty of organic material when planting, and the ideal is a soil that is moist but well-drained, with a pH value below 5.5. Avoid wet places, but don’t plant in exposed dry areas. If you don’t have suitable soil you can grow this bush for many years in a large tub, mixing equal parts of lime-free potting soil, shredded pine bark, and sphagnum peat moss together for soil.
Mulch you plants – in the ground and in pots – each spring and fall with shredded pine bark, oak leaves, pine needles, sphagnum peat moss, or a mixture of any of these. Pests and diseases are usually rare, and once you have suitable soil growing this plant is not difficult. Water regularly as blueberry bushes are not drought resistant. Once it has been growing for a few years you can prune in early spring. Remove thin and spindly branches, and older branches that aren’t carrying many berries anymore. This allows new, vigorous stems to develop, keeping your bush bearing lots of fruit.
The rabbit-eye blueberry, Vaccinium ashei, is today more accurately known as Vaccinium virgatum. It grows wild all the way from Texas east into North Carolina, and down into Florida. It is the most suitable species for the southeast, naturally adapted to hot and humid summers, and not needing long periods of winter cold. Georgia has been breeding blueberries since 1925 at the Coastal Plains Experimental Station, in Tifton. The program really got underway after 1945, when Dr. W. Thomas Brightwell took over. He introduced many of the early improved varieties of the rabbit-eye blueberry. In 1974 the Station and the University of Georgia released the variety called ‘Climax’, which was a result of crossing together two earlier varieties, ‘Ethel’ and ‘Callaway’.
It is so important to match the blueberry varieties you grow with the place you live. For southern gardeners the Climax Blueberry is a top choice. Beware of cheap ‘blueberry’ bushes you might see, as these could easily not be suitable for you. Avoid that kind of slow-motion disappointment, and buy the best. But order right away, as our stock is limited, and it will soon all be gone.