Historically it was believed that the common garden strawberry, or Fragaria x ananassa, was a hybrid of two wild species: F. virginiana, or wild strawberry, from North America, and F. chiloensis, or beach strawberry, from the pacific coast in North America and South America. Today genetic analysis has revealed its ancestry to be more complex as there are genes from other species as well. The original cross (from which all modern garden strawberries derive) occurred in occurred in France in the 1750s, once the chiloensis was brought back from Chile in 1714. Before the introduction of the common garden strawberry, the strawberry species consumed was the Fragaria vesca, or wild strawberry, that grows naturally throughout much of the Northern Hemisphere.
It’s scientific name originates from the Latin fragum, meaning fragrant, and ananassa, meaning pineapples. Interestly, strawberries aren’t technically berries as with berries the entire pericarp (flesh surrounding the seed) is succulent tissue. Instead, strawberries, are aggregate fruits which form from a single flower with many pistils (seed-bearing female organ of a flower) that develop into fruits. Years of hybridisation has produced cultivars far superior to those of old with larger fruits, heavier crops and improved disease resistance.
Primrose Strawberry Cultivars A-Z
An offspring of the ‘Diamente’ cultivar, ‘Albion’ was first fruited at the University of California in the 1998 and released commercially in 2006. The university goes through 12,000 unique cultivars every year, making it extremely special. (It is the most popular strawberry among growers in California.) Day-neutral, the plant will flower regardless of the light it receives, making it suitable for summer and winter fruiting. It is also resistant to verticillium wilt, phytophthora crown rot and, to a degree, anthracnose crown rot. Its conical, red fruits are large and firm with good flavour. It will will produce abundant runners that we recommend you clip to reduce stress and increase yields.
Recipient of the RHS Award of Garden Merit and the Perfect for Pollinators badge, ‘Cambridge Favourite’ was developed at the University of Oxford – no just kidding – the University of Cambridge in 1947. A mid season cultivar, the cultivar possesses good disease resistance and will produce abundant runners from which average-sized berries will spring. The flavour is excellent, but notably soft.
Calypso was developed at East Malling Research in 1991. The centre was set up all the way back in 1913 by the fruit-growing sector to address challenges to farmers. Perfectly located in the Garden of England, it is surrounded by about 70% of the UK’s grower with the county specialising in fruit. (Kent’s title originates from the fact it was the first counties to set up commercial orchards of exotic fruits such as cherries – a species Henry VIII loved).
A cross between Rapella and Selva, Calypso is a significant advance over its parents. Unusually prolific for a day-neutral, or everbearing type, it is able to produce large yields whether planted in Spring or Autumn, and again, we recommend you clip its runners to improve yields. It’s fruits are larger than average in size with moderate flavour and firm flavour. The cultivar is resistant to verticillium-wilt.
A widely grown commercial cultivar, Elsanta was developed by Wageningen Plant Research Institute (Netherlands) and released in 1975. It’s fruits are delicious with a good storage life and are less prone to bruising; hence, a supermarket favourite. The cultivar is notable for its huge crops and one can expect up to 500g of produce in its first year. However, it is susceptible to both mildew and verticillium wilt, so we recommend plant under warm conditions and spray against mildew.
Another everbearer from East Malling Research (EMR), the ‘Flamenco’ is highly versatile, suitable for both beds and containers and functions well when brought into the greenhouse. A heavy cropper, this cultivar can produce up to 800G of strawberries per plant all the way to Autumn. Its fruit is sweet, larger than average, classically conical in shape.
A midseason cultivar, Florence will produce fruit from the backend of June to the end of July. It’s fruit are tasty, sweet in flavour and firm in texture. The plant is notable for its exceptional disease and pest resistance, originating from the fact it is a crossbreed of many cultivars, bred by EMR.
A cross between strawberries and raspberries, the cultivar is notable for sweet raspberry flavour. Like strawberries proper, they are low maintenance and grow well in pots.
A product of Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, honeoye takes its name for the Seneca word for lying finger, which describes a lake in New York State. Recipient of the RHS Award of Garden Merit, the cultivar is hardy and one of the best strawberries to grow in the colder parts of the UK. It is suitable for cloches and tunnels, but grows best in a raised bed. An early-season cultivar, the cultivar will produce heavy crops of firm, medium-sized strawberries.
A very-late season cultivar from EMR, Judibell was the first commercial cultivar released with the extended dormancy trait that keeps the plant dormant till mid-May. The cultivar is resistant to both Verticillium Wilt and Crown Rot, although is somewhat susceptible to powdery mildew, which can be fought against with spray. It’s fruits are juicy red and of superb quality.
Mara des Bois combines the best of commercial and alpine cultivars with a taste reminiscent of wild strawberries, intense aromatic flavour, vigour and heavy cropping. This aromatic flavour has its origin in the flavour compound methyl anthranilate, not present in most supermarket strawberries. The cultivar was created by nurseryman Jacques Marionnet in 1991 from four cultivars – Gento, Redgauntlet, Ostara and Korona – and is prized the world over by Michelin-starred chefs. Highly popular among hobbyists in France, over 15 million are bought every year, producing 10,000 tonnes of strawberries. Another day neutral cultivar, it will produce fruit intermittently throughout the summer.
Appearing as inverted colour strawberries, pineberries are actually another hybrid of Fragaria chiloensis and Fragaria virginiana – the same hybridisation that gave us the common garden strawberry. The cultivar originates from Wil Beekers, a Dutch grower, who sought to exploit demand for niche fruit around the world. First sold commercially in the Netherlands and Belgium in 2010, the cultivar quickly spread to the UK, and then the States in 2012.
Smaller than the common strawberry with white colouring and red seeds, pineberries have a fresh acidic-sweet taste, much like pineapples, hence its name. This is interesting considering the Latin name for strawberries is Fragaria x ananassa with ananassa meaning pineapples – another early misnomer of plant naming. The cultivar produces small yields, but is understandably popular for its novel look and taste. Growing it yourself can save you a small fortune vis-a-vis purchasing it in the shops.
A mid-season cultivar that will produce second crop come September, the Red Gauntlet is understandably popular among growers with large sweet-tasting fruits. Highly suitable to cloches and tunnels, the cultivar has good disease resistance with some resistance to botrytis.
Another cultivar well-adapted to the colder parts of the UK, Rhapsody was developed by the Scottish Crop Research Institute and is recommended by both the Ministry of Agriculture and the RHS. A progeny of Talisam, Cambridge Vigour and Cambridge Favourite, Rhapsody has good resistance to disease (including the dreaded red core) and is a heavy cropper, more so than Cambridge Favourite. Superb in flavour, these strawberries are not to be ignored.
Recommended by Which? magazine, Sonata is a mid-season cultivar with sharp flavour. The plant is widely marketed as a successor to Elsanta due to its uniform fruit shape and consistent quality of fruit. Well adapted to Northern Europe’s climatic conditions, Sonata is another cultivar suited to the colder parts of the UK.
Jorge works in the Primrose marketing team. He is an avid reader, although struggles to stick to one topic!
His ideal afternoon would involve a long walk, before settling down for scones.
Jorge is a journeyman gardener with experience in growing crops.