Top Hat BlueberryVaccinium corymbosum x angustifolium 'Top Hat'
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Vaccinium corymbosum x angustifolium 'Top Hat'
Outdoor Growing zone
Full Sun, Partial Sun
The Top Hat Blueberry is an amazing dwarf shrub that grows no more than 2 feet tall, but yields a good crop of delicious, top-quality berries in July. Sweet and delicious, the berries are almost a bonus, because this bush is so beautiful it is worth growing simply for the spring flowers and fall colors. Even the smallest garden has space for it, as a single plant or grown as an edging on a bed. Its small size makes it perfect for growing in containers, and means that even if you only garden on a balcony you can grow your own berries.
In colder zones, grow the Top Hat Blueberry in full sun for the best results. It can be happy with a little afternoon shade in hotter places. The main soil requirement is a pH of 5.5 or preferably less, and the soil should be moist and rich in organic materials. If you don’t have suitable soil, grow it in a planter using an acid-soil mix. This variety is also self-pollinating, so you don’t need other varieties around to grow a big harvest.
Everyone loves blueberries, and nothing beats picking them straight from your own garden. But most of the many different varieties available grow into large bushes, needing lots of room, so if your garden is small, what can you do? Grow the Top Hat Blueberry, that’s what. This compact but heavy-bearing variety can be grown in the smallest garden, and even on a balcony if you have no garden at all. It’s the perfect edging shrub too, so you can turn the borders of your beds into places that are productive as well as pretty. Growing no more than 2 feet tall and wide, it’s so attractive, with deep-green glossy leaves, and charming white flowers in spring, it’s as ornamental as any flowering shrub. Yet come July you will be picking your own crop of fat, juicy blueberries, and enjoying healthy, delicious eating from your own garden. We doff our hats – tall or short – to this bountiful little plant.
The Top Hat Blueberry is a deciduous dwarf shrub that grows into a rounded bush between 12 and 24 inches tall and wide. It has a dense, twiggy structure, and the branches are covered in smooth, glossy, deep-green leaves with tiny serrations along their edges. They are between 1 and 2 inches long, and in fall they turn beautiful shades of golden oranges and purple-reds, adding to the ornamental value of this bush. Spring brings a lovely show of flowers, in clusters among the leaves. These are like tiny urns hanging upside down, and they are white with some pink touches, and softly fragrant. Unlike many varieties of blueberries it is self-pollinating, so you don’t need any other bushes, making it perfect for small gardens and containers. If you do grow a different, related variety nearby, you will be rewarded with an even bigger harvest, but just one bush does give you excellent results.
Your berry crop ripens during July, when the green berries that have developed start to turn blue. They are a fabulous mid-blue color, and they have that classic powdery surface we expect from blueberries. Large, sweet, and with good texture, pick them only when they are fully ripe, because blueberries won’t continue to ripen once they have been picked. Once well-established and mature you can expect to harvest a worthwhile crop from just one bush, and it will keep on delivering fresh fruit to your doorstep for at least 20 years. If you don’t use everything fresh, just put the unwashed berries into a box and put them straight into the freezer – it’s that simple – and you can be eating your own berries at Christmas.
Planted directly in the garden, or growing in a pot, either way the Top Hat Blueberry is a great addition to your garden. Spring flowers, fall color, summer berries, and attractive foliage – what more could we need from a garden shrub? Plant it among other small shrubs, like azaleas, accent the corners of your beds with one, or grow a row as an edging on a larger bed. It’s also perfect in containers, and can decorate your terrace, porch or balcony, right among your flowers.
The Top Hat Blueberry was bred to combine top-quality fruit with cold-hardiness, so it will grow and give you fruit even in zones 3 and 4. Beyond zone 7 choose one of our varieties developed to grow well in hotter climates. When growing in containers, zone 6 or warmer parts of zone 5 are the limit, but you can bury your pots in the garden for the winter, and enjoy potted plants in colder zones too.
Especially in colder zones, a place in the sun is best for your Top Hat Blueberry bushes. In warmer zones a little afternoon shade for an hour or two is fine, and can even be beneficial. Besides planting them in moist, well-drained soil rich in organic material, the soil for blueberries must be strongly acidic – no more than pH 5.5, and preferably even lower. It is possible to make a slightly acidic soil more acidic, by adding peat moss or pine needles, but if your soil is neutral or alkaline the best solution is to use pots – and that is where the small size of this variety is so useful. Use a pot with a drainage hole, and plant in a mixture of equal parts lime-free potting soil, shredded bark and sphagnum peat moss. Raise the pot a little off the ground, and water whenever the top begins to dry. Mulch with more shredded bark, and if possible use rainwater or deionized water.
Pests and diseases are uncommon on the Top Hat Blueberry, but you will need to protect your bushes if you have rabbits coming into your garden. Pruning isn’t needed, and besides watering this plant needs little attention to thrive.
There are several species of blueberries growing in North America, each one adapted to different climates. The northern highbush blueberry, Vaccinium corymbosum, gives high yields, and the berries are considered top quality. Despite being ‘northern’ it isn’t as cold-resistant as the lowbush blueberry, Vaccinium angustifolium. The ‘trick’ is to combine the best of both these plants, and that is why the variety called Top Hat was created. It makes sense that the University of Minnesota would be ahead in breeding cold-hardy varieties, and they are. Their experimental station in Excelsior, near Lake Minnetonka, has been developing new varieties since 1878, and tests them at its center in Grand Rapids – the coldest breeding center in America. Breeders in Excelsior combined the highbush and northern blueberries to create hybrids, and one of them was amazingly compact, yet heavy-bearing, with top-quality fruit. They named it Top Hat.
What makes the Top Hat Blueberry so unique and so desirable is the combination of small size and top-quality fruit. It isn’t a big-box gimmick plant, but the result of academic research, so you know it’s good. Perfect for your garden, or for pot-growing, order your plants right away – this is a top-seller, and never stays on our farm for long. Avoid cheap generic ‘blueberry bushes’, and go for the best. You won’t regret it when you bite into those first berries.