Fall Berry Planting : Elderberries, Gooseberries & Blackberries

August 3, 2023

I am adding a bunch of berries to my garden, but my berry planting intentions stretch beyond the ordinary strawberry, blueberry, raspberry mix. There are three less common and different things I am interested in – Elderflower (and elderberries), Gooseberry, and blackberry plants, and I am excited about each for a variety of reasons.

Fall is a great time plant berries (because it’s a good time to plant all sorts of trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants – berries aren’t special in this regard). Because many berry bushes will have their beautiful berries actually growing on the plant at this time of year – making them extra interesting to nursery shoppers – you might have an easier time finding them to purchase.

gooseberries on the shrub
black berries

ELDERBERRIES – Berry plants for health

Elder flower cordial was one of those British things that I learned about when living in England. Though curious to me, it seems all Brits know what it is, have had it at some point in time, and might even know someone who has made it. None of this is true for most Americans, so I am obviously intrigued.

elderberry flowers

The cordial made from the flowers (find a great recipe here) is sweet and makes me feel fancy when I make a cocktail with it.

I learned recently that Elderberry also has significant flu fighting qualities. I’m wishing I’d planted Elder years ago so that I could be harvesting it and making my H1N1 Swine Flu elixir right now.  (following the recipe advice of Magpie Eats).
So for this winter I will have to resort to Sambucol should the flu strike.  But next winter…

Sambucus nigra (Black Elder – elderberry) is one of those plants that, if placed well in the garden, can stop me in my tracks.  I love the feathery black cut leaves of this sizable shrub. The soft pink flowers against the dark leaves are quite striking. There is a similarly striking version of elderberries that have chartreuse leaves (with the same pretty pink flowers) that is also worth checking out. Its called ‘Lemony Lace’. ‘Instant Karma’ is another sambucus variety that will add lightness to your plantings. It has variegated (green and white) leaves and the elderberry flowers are white.

sambucus nigra - elderberry


gooseberry shrub leaves
Gooseberry leaves are distinctive and look like geraniums – but in a much bigger shrub form.

Gooseberries make me think of my grandmother and mother.  When my mom was little, she would pick gooseberries from bushes that grew along Spring Creek, which runs through my gran’s ranch in Montana.  As a child, I spent summers on the ranch and frequently, both with my mother and without, would set out to pick gooseberries along the creek.

I always wanted to relive what my mother did in her youth. But through a whole childhood of going gooseberry picking every summer, we never found the bushes. Not even once. They must have died away sometime between when my mom was little and when I came along. Or perhaps we never hit them in the right season?  So now, like my mother, I have this little obsession with gooseberries.  If ever I see a jar of gooseberry jam I have to buy two – one for her and one for me – it is like finding the thing that we never did for so many years.


Now as an adult, with 6 acres I can plant with whatever I want, I am planting gooseberries, so that my daughter – and maybe my mother too – can go pick these elusive berries.  Maybe I can break the cycle. 😉

If you are interested in a slight alternative to gooseberries – you might also try jostaberries – it is a cross between gooseberries and Black Currants (which would also be a great plant to add to this berry planting list!)


Earlier this summer our neighbor who owns a a U-pick orchard across the street told us about their blackberry thicket.  He invited us to pick (for free) all that we could stand.  (We are so lucky to have great neighbors!). The words ‘could stand’ are important though.  If you have ever picked blackberries, you know about their crazy grabby thorns – blackberry plants hook you and they don’t let go.

harvested blackberries in a bowl

I love blackberries and I love to look at them as much as I love to eat them.  So after this first experience of picking, and seeing as they grow so well just across the road, I am planting my own black berry plants.  Except I have a plan…rather than plant them in this big round area, like my neighbors,  I will plant my new black berry plants in a very thin line.  This way, there is less need to climb in to the ticket as the fruit will all be reachable from the edges and the collateral damages to my body can be minimized.

It is also worth mentioning that because blackberries have such notoriously viscous thorns, breeders have recently introduced varieties that are thornless. A blessed improvement! Check out Navaho Black berry shrubs for berries without the pain.

black berry plant

Other posts you might be interested in:

image of elderberry by axiepics, gooseberry by aloalosabine, and blackberry by Anders L Lundberg. images of elder flower by Julskitchen  Elderberry syrup recipe available at chiotsrun blog  and image by Chiot's Rungooseberry leaves image - Photo by Nish on Unsplash gooseberries - Photo by Rob Wicks on Unsplashblackberries image by Martina-craftyna, Photo by Mathias Klieber on Unsplash

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  1. louise garwood says:

    Gorgeous pics, rochelle
    fedco (and many other nurseries) carry THORNLESS(yes!) Blackberries
    Also- do you know if Blacklace Elderberry produces berries?- thats a beauty!
    And I just came across LeerReichs article in FIne Gardening for designing with edible shrubs
    Nanking cherries, lingon berry and lowbush blues have my eye!
    Thanks for the post.

  2. rochelle says:

    oh I should check about black lace berries before I buy…. – nanking cherries look interesting…have you eaten them? what are they like?

  3. louise garwood says:
    Can be espaliered! or pruned to tree form- otherwise tends to be more like a shrub, need two at least to cross pollinate. Hardy to zone 3. But not I havent eaten them- I’ll take Lees recommendation, though.
    Happy fall planting.

  4. louise garwood says:

    Hey! Looks like both Black Beauty and Black Lace produce berries!
    great news.

  5. Sprout says:

    Are you giving me permission to drink St. Germain cocktails as a way to fight flu?!

  6. rochelle says:

    sprout — yes — absolutely — but what is a st germain cocktail and where might I try one?

  7. dana says:

    Berries garden time… lovely

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