To my mind, everyone needs to plant a gooseberry in their garden to ensure a delicious crop of fruit for summer. And, if I only had space for one, then it would be the variety ‘Invicta’. The fruits take on a jewel-like translucency when fully ripe that makes them appear as if suffused with brown sugar. They can be eaten like grapes at this stage, straight from the bushes and still warm from the sun.
This variety never gets mildew where I grow it and one bush easily yields over 9kg (20lb.) of fruit in an average year. In fact if I was limited to just one fruit then this would be it! Try to find space for a ‘goosegog’ in your garden – especially this one – and you’ll never regret it.
Where to grow gooseberries
Gooseberry bushes do well in all but the deepest shade. The plants will grow well and produce a good crop of fruit if they get sunlight for a minimum of around 4 hours a day in the summer. You’ll probably get a bigger crop though if you plant them in full sun. They are less likely to suffer from mildew if you can plant your bush or bushes in an open site.
You can often find bare root plants for sale in the dormant season – between November and March – at some garden centres and by mail order. This is an economical way to buy them and they will establish quickly, getting their roots deep into the soil before it dries out in the summer. Alternatively, pot grown bushes can be planted at any time of year, but will have to be well watered in the summer if they are to survive and thrive.
How to prune a gooseberry bush
The stems of many gooseberries are armed with thorns, although there are varieties with many fewer thorns like ‘Xenia’, ‘Captivator’ and ‘Lady Sun’. Pruning is easy once the plants are established after 1-2 years. Simply use a pair of secateurs to cut out around a third of the oldest woody branches right down to the ground, once you’ve picked your crop. Leave strong new shoots that are coming from low down on the bushes and prune out any thin, weedy stems.
Aim to leave 3-5 older stems to fruit in the following season and 3-5 new, strong shoots. This way you will stop the bushes becoming overgrown, woody and difficult to pick from.
HEIGHT: 1.2m (4ft.)
SPREAD: 1.2m (4ft.)
SOIL: Sand, loam or chalky soils, acid, neutral or alkaline soils. Moisture-retentive, but free-drained.
ASPECT: Full sun, part or dappled shade. Any location.
HARDINESS: Hardy down to -20C
Click on Height, Spread, Soil, Aspect or Hardiness (above) for general information about these terms
Where to buy gooseberry bushes
A limited range of potted gooseberry varieties is available from garden centres. ‘Invicta’ is sometimes offered in this way. Specialist nurseries offer a much wider selection of varieties by mail order (some nurseries are not open for visits, particularly during Covid restrictions, so check before travelling). For a great range of bare root plants and potted specimens, try this crop of great British nurseries: Ashridge Nurseries, Blackmoor, Chris Bowers, James McIntyre & Sons, Lubera, Pomona Fruits.