Viking ChokeberryAronia melanocarpa (= x Sorbaronia mitschurinii) 'Viking'
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Aronia melanocarpa (= x Sorbaronia mitschurinii) 'Viking'
Outdoor Growing zone
Full Sun, Partial Sun
The Viking Chokeberry is an attractive deciduous shrub growing 3 to 6 feet tall and wide. It has glossy dark-green leaves that turn bright colors of red, orange and gold in the fall. Fragrant white flowers in spring produce a heavy crop of large black berries that look like small cherries, ripening in September. These can be turned into juice or jelly that has a reputation for vitamins and heart-healthy properties. Grow it as an ornamental shrub in your borders, by a stream or pond, or at the edges of woodlands. Grow it in a fruit orchard for maximum berry production.
Grow the Viking Chokeberry in full sun for the best berries, but it will also grow well in partial shade. It is hardy in all but the hottest and coldest parts of the country. It thrives in almost any soil, including wet ones and along streams. It is drought resistant once established, but will not grow so well on very hot, dry soils. Pests and diseases are not an issue, and pruning is only needed if you want to maximize fruit production.
If you are the kind of gardener who looks for more than just beauty in their garden, then choosing plants that are both attractive and useful is going to be important. One of the easiest ways to do this is with plants that are attractive, easy to grow, and that have edible berries. There has been a lot said in recent years about the health benefits of the vitamin-rich chokeberry, which have been shown in European studies to reduce blood pressure and lower cholesterol. You can have your own chokeberry crop, and also grow a handsome garden shrub, with attractive glossy leaves, spectacular fall color and white spring flowers. The Viking Chokeberry was created in Finland for its heavy crop of extra-large berries, and it makes a lovely garden shrub too. If you don’t want to harvest the attractive bunches of black berries in fall, after you have enjoyed their beauty the birds will thank you for helping them with the gift of some tasty winter food.
The Viking Chokeberry is a medium-sized deciduous shrub with upright branches growing from the base. It grows between 3 and 6 feet tall, possibly reaching 8 feet as it matures. The bark on the branches is dark brown, smooth and glossy on younger stems, and more ridged and rougher on older branches. The leaves are elliptical and glossy dark green, with finely-toothed edges. They turn bright shades of red, orange and gold in fall, making a lovely display.
In spring clusters of white or pale-pink flowers form, in groups of 5 or 6. These simple flowers have 5 flat petals, and they are slightly fragrant. A bush in bloom is an attractive feature in any garden. Each flower develops into a berry, which by late summer hang in bunches. They are a little larger than cultivated blueberries, and they are glossy, and a dark purple-black color. The flesh is red, and they look a little like miniature cherries. The berries are very astringent when raw – hence the name ‘chokeberry’ – but once turned into juice and jelly they are very valuable in the kitchen. The fruit is very high in vitamin C, and it contains a wide range of polyphenols and anthocyanins. The juice is often mixed with apple juice to sweeten it naturally. Fruit is usually ready for harvest from late August until the end of September.
This versatile shrub can be used in almost any part of the garden. It is an attractive background shrub for smaller beds, or in the middle zone of larger ones. Plant it as a single plant, or in groups. Space plants 3 or 4 feet apart for mass planting. Grow it to show off its fall colors, with other deciduous shrubs, or plant it in more natural areas. It fits just as well at the margins of a woodland garden, and along streams or by ponds. Grow it in a fruit garden too, where it can be grown entirely for its fruit.
Hardy in all but the coldest and hottest states, the Viking Chokeberry is completely hardy in zone 3, and happy also to grow in zone 8.
For maximum fruit production, grow the Viking Chokeberry in full sun. In a garden it will also grow in partial shade, with several hours of shade each day, or in the open dappled shade near deciduous trees. It will grow in almost any soil, favoring damp conditions over very dry areas. It will also grow in wet soil, which makes it very useful for low-lying areas and along streams. Once established it is relatively drought tolerant, but a regular supply of water during summer will maximize the berry harvest. Very alkaline soils may not be tolerated so well.
This plant is very low maintenance, and it can be grown with no significant attention as an ornamental garden shrub. For fruit production some pruning will give you the largest crop. In late winter, remove some older branches to encourage new, vigorous shoots to develop. Try to have no branches older than 5 years, removing 3 or 4 of the oldest each year, close to the ground. This plant often sends up stems from the soil around it, which in the garden is usually not a problem. For fruit growing this may make the plants too bushy and hard to pick from, so remove these suckers regularly.
The Viking Chokeberry has a complex and fascinating history. The black chokeberry, Aronia melanocarpa, grows wild across a large part of eastern North America, from Newfoundland to Minnesota, and south into Georgia. It was introduced into Europe before the 19th century, and it became widely grown there as an ornamental bush. In the early 20th century interest in it as a berry crop began, especially in Russia, Poland and Scandinavia. The Russian botanist and plant breeder Ivan Vladimirovich Michurin grew it, and it seems that at some point in the 1920s he accidentally or purposefully crossed it with the closely-related mountain-ash (Sorbus). The result was a plant with very large berries, which became widely grown behind the Iron Curtain as a vitamin drink. Today, after genetic studies that verify its hybrid origin, this plant has been named x Sorbaronia mitschurinii. Several selected varieties have been developed from this plant, throughout Europe, and the variety called ‘Viking’ was created around 1980 in Finland.
The remarkable Viking Chokeberry is both an attractive garden plant for landscaping, and a valuable addition to any fruit garden – or both. We have tracked down some top-quality plants, but the interest in health and home fruit-growing is huge, so order your plants now, while we still have some of our limited stock left to send you.