The sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) is a native plant, but probably only migrated from Central Asia to Central Europe during the ice ages. It was probably one of the first trees to colonise the large, bare gravel and gravel areas left behind by the glaciers. Because sea buckthorn is very light-needy and does not tolerate the slightest shade, it was displaced from the interior by the newly emerging forests and finally found its ecological niche on the barren sand dunes of the coastal region, in coarse sandy or gravelly river meadows and on alpine gravel surfaces on river banks. Sea buckthorn is the most important member of the Elaeagnaceae family, which also includes the Elaeagnus family.
Appearance and growth
The deciduous sea buckthorn grows remarkably sparse and usually forms an irregular crown. It can be four to five meters high and reaches a width of about three to four meters. Because of this spreading growth the sea buckthorn needs a sufficiently large free space in the garden, which is not shaded by other trees.
Location and soil
Sea buckthorn needs a lot of light and the soil should be deep and not too acidic. Especially heavy clay soils have to be loosened up with plenty of sand, because sea buckthorn does not grow on poor soils. Especially along the coast the sea buckthorn is superior to all other shrubs due to its wind resistance and salt tolerance. It also lives in symbiosis with ray fungi, which supply it with nitrogen and enable it to live in nutrient-poor sand.
Planting and care
Sea buckthorn is dioecious, which means that the fruits only form on the female plants. For reliable yield, you must plant at least one male pollen dispenser for up to five female shrubs, for example the varieties ‘Pollmix 1’ (early flowering), ‘Pollmix 4’ (medium early flowering) or ‘Pollmix 3’ (late flowering). Since the flowers are pollinated by wind, the male plant should be planted to the west of the female, taking into account the main wind direction. In order to contain the runner formation of the sea buckthorn, all cuttings should be pricked early with a sharp spade or provided with a root barrier. For this purpose, HDPE plastic sheets about two millimeters thick and 60 to 70 centimeters wide are suitable, as they are also used as rhizome barriers for bamboo. The rolls are screwed together to form a ring and then buried. The ring should have a minimum diameter of 1.50 metres and protrude about one to two centimetres from the ground. The shrubs do not need to be watered or fertilized because they are resistant to drought and their nitrogen requirements are met by symbiosis with ray fungi. Only in the year after planting a fertilization with horn flour is to be recommended, because the mycorrhiza does not function then yet smoothly. Other nutrients can be added as compost every two years.
If you let sea buckthorn grow freely, the crown becomes wider with time. The fruits only form in the outer crown area, while the inside of the crown becomes increasingly bald and woody. In order to counteract this, the harvested shoots are cut back every two years in late winter to short lengths and the bushes are additionally thinned out if necessary. Tip: Plant at least two female and one male shrubs, because the sea buckthorn only yields a good yield every two years. You can harvest the male sea buckthorn every three to four years, but only about half of the flowering shoots, so that the lack of pollen does not lead to crop failures.
Harvesting and recycling
Depending on the variety, the wild fruit is ripe for harvesting from mid-August to mid-September, but often sticks to the branches until next spring when it is not harvested. As soon as the sea buckthorn berries have reached their typical orange-yellow to orange-red fruit colour, the harvest can begin. Early varieties such as ‘Frugana’ and ‘Hergo’ should be harvested quickly, because the quality of the fruit can change quickly: after two weeks the fruits fade and acquire a slightly rancid taste.
Harvesting sea buckthorn berries is relatively laborious and sometimes painful because of the long thorns, so you should always wear gloves. Varieties such as ‘Dorana’ and ‘Orange Energy’ are best suited for picking. They have relatively long fruit stems and the berries dissolve well without tearing. If you choose a harvest time that is not too early, the fruits can also be harvested by shaking them off. In professional cultivation, the shoots, which are densely covered with berries, are often simply cut off, defoliated by hand and pressed together with the branch pieces for juice production. If the whole fruit is to be processed into compote, the individual berries must be harvested without leaves or shoots. This is done either with special jogging machines or by shock freezing the cut fruit branches and shaking off the frozen berries. Harvesting shoots is also the most efficient method for juice production in the home garden. The latter method can also be used for the production of compote using a freezer.
Meanwhile, there are some breeding forms, which are clearly superior to the wild sea buckthorn in terms of yield, fruit size and quality. ‘Askola’: Strong growing variety with upright crown, short fruit twigs and moderate spination. The variety ripens at the end of August, the fruit stock is very dense. The fruits are medium sized, oval to cylindrical and deep orange. ‘Askola’ regenerates well after pruning, but is somewhat prone to wind breakage. ‘Dorana’: Relatively slow-growing variety with upright crown and medium thorny spines. The orange fruits are medium in size and oval. The fruit stock is relatively dense and the vitamin C content of the fruit is very high. Dorana’ hardly forms runners and is easy to pick by hand, so it is suitable for the house garden. The regenerative capacity is rather moderate, therefore stronger pruning should be avoided. ‘Frugana’: The variety grows strongly and steeply upright. The crown is little branched and the long fruit branches are only slightly spined. The medium-sized, oval fruits are light orange and ripen as early as mid-August. They spoil about 14 days after full ripeness. ‘Frugana’ regenerates well after pruning, but is somewhat prone to wind breakage due to its strong growth. ‘Hergo’: The variety grows medium vigorously and forms a regular crown with overhanging fruit twigs and weak spines. The medium sized, light orange fruits ripen at the beginning of September. The plant is extremely productive, but the fruit should be harvested within 14 days of full ripeness, otherwise it will spoil. They do not stick very firmly to the branch and can be easily shaken off. Hergo’ has a relatively high water requirement and regenerates well after pruning.
Leikora’: The growth is very strong, the crown relatively dense and compact with weak spines. The deep orange, medium sized fruits are cylindrical to drop-shaped. They do not ripen until the middle to end of September and adhere very firmly to the shoot. Leikora’ regenerates well after pruning, but does not bring high yields again until the third year after pruning. This robust variety is well suited to the production of decorative twigs and can also be used to fortify slopes and in public green areas. ‘Orange Energy’: The variety is also known as ‘Habego’. It grows strongly and forms a broadly upright crown with spreading, moderately bedorntern side branches. The yellow-orange, oval fruits are strikingly large and stand very close to the branch. They mature in the middle to end of September. Orange Energy’ is suitable for the home garden because it produces reliable yields and the fruit is easy to pick. It has a good regenerative ability, its shoots are also very decorative and durable in the vase. ‘Pollmix’: The male breeding forms of sea buckthorn, which have to be planted to pollinate the female fruit varieties, are commercially available under the variety name ‘Pollmix’. There are four different clones with the names ‘Pollmix 1’ to ‘Pollmix 4’. Depending on the beginning of flowering of the female variety either ‘Pollmix 1’ (early), ‘Pollmix 4’ (medium early) or ‘Pollmix 3’ (late) should be planted. The also medium early variety ‘Pollmix 2’ is hardly available on the market because of its strong spines.
Diseases and pests
Sea buckthorn is very easy to care for and is hardly affected by diseases and pests.
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I am Don Burke, one of the authors at My Garden Guide. I am a horticulturist that cultivates, grows, and cares for plants, ranging from shrubs and fruits to flowers. I do it in my own garden and in my nursery. I show you how to take care of your garden and how to perform garden landscaping in an easy way, step by step.I am originally from Sydney and I wrote in local magazines. Later on, I have decided, more than two decades ago, to create my own blog. My area of specialization is related to orchid care, succulent care, and the study of the substrate and the soil. Therefore, you will see many articles dedicated to these disciplines. I also provide advice about how to improve the landscape design of your garden.