Growing Ornamental Strawberries
Although there have been more or less ornamental varieties of Fragaria in cultivation for some years, most notably those with variegated foliage, some have been related species or varieties grown for their pinkrather than their fruit. ‘Pink Panda’ is one of the best known and has proved very popular as a front-of-border perennial. It will form the occasional fruit, too, but should not be grown as a fruiting substitute for real .
STRAWBERRIES IN CONTAINERS
Although I have mentioned containers in general terms, strawberries are among the more obvious candidates for this type of cropping. You can either use one of the so-called strawberry tubs, usually made of terracotta or plastic and with holes in the sides, or alternatively an open wooden half-barrel or similar sized vessel. They are, I suppose, a fairly attractive option for someone who otherwise has no room to grow strawberries but they are far from ideal.
You will need a great deal of good-based compost (John Innes No. 2 is ideal), the crop will inevitably be fairly small because most of the must be removed and the plants placed close together, so restricting them in size, watering will be a necessary and continuing chore and you may well have poor ripening. This is because half of the container will almost inevitably face away from the sun, unless it is small enough to be turned regularly. You will also have to help the pollination process by dusting over the open flowers with a soft paint brush; with relatively few plants, you must ensure that as many flowers as possible set fruit.
One of the most interesting developments in container raising of soft fruit in recent years has been to grow strawberries in long containers above head height inso the fruit hangs down, for ease of picking. Commercially, various systems have been adopted, including the use of growing bags of soilless compost and wide diameter sections of plastic gutter pipe into which holes have been drilled. Of course, any system of this type does depend on having strong shelves to support the containers and, ideally, on installing some system of automated irrigation and provision of liquid feed.
I don’t think it is a technique for every garden but a gardener with a large, more or less redundant greenhouse could make excellent use of the facility and could extend the strawberry cropping season considerably by using any of my recommended day-neutral varieties. These will crop all year round if temperatures are adequate as they aren’t dependent, like the more familiar and older varieties, on the long days of summer for flowering to commence.