Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Planting an Aronia

On Easter Monday I planted an aronia plant in the garden. In the UK aronia is barely known as a garden plant. If it is known, it is known as a shrub which has lovely white spring flowers, bright autumn foliage and decorative black berries. In the Czech Republic you will find aronia bushes in many gardens and it is grown less for its appearance as for the benefits of its edible berries.

Aronia is a plant native to the Eastern and Northern forests of America. Its therapeutic qualities were valued by the Native Americans, but its use went into decline and the berries were primarily used for dying fabrics. Meanwhile behind the Iron Curtain Aronia was being presented as a super berry, created through the scientific advances of socialism. Now we Brits are discovering aronia's qualities. Marks and Spencers announced last year that it was going to be stocking aronia berries and at the same time launched something of an awareness campaign in the British press. The coverage also indicated that one reason for M&S's decision was demand from Britain's growing Polish community.

So why am I planting it? Well, it is relatively easy to grow, although it likes acid to neutral soil, and is small enough to grow in a medium sized garden. Any plant in my garden has to earn its place visually, ideally (as with aronia) in a number of seasons. But perhaps most importantly the more I read about the medical benefits, the more I realise its potential value. It has the highest level of antioxidants of any fruit, as well as anti-inflammatories and chemicals that help cardiovascular problems. Oh and the Native Americans believed that aronia is an aphrodisiac! All I need now is to keep the pigeons off the berries.

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