How to Grow Blackberries and Their Hybrids
Wild blackberries vary enormously from plant to plant; there is no single native bramble or blackberry but hosts of them. Certainly any blackberry found near enough to people to be picked is a hybrid and you have to pick carefully to get the best tasting ones. Grown inblackberries are productive, but never seem as tasty or as good as the wild ones – so don’t waste the space when wild bushes are accessible.
More worthwhile growing, are the various crosses made between blackberries and . All of these different berries prefer the same rich, well-mulched soil of the edge, but can often fruit well on poor soils – even in moderate shade or on a north wall. All are pruned much the same as raspberries, cutting out the old and tying in the new canes each year.
Obviously the more vigorous growers need more wires for support, which must be strongly attached to a wall or stout posts. Vigorous and self-fertile, the only common problem is birds and this is particularly true for tayberries which never even get halfway to ripe unless netted! Modern thornless versions of these berries are often less well flavoured and poorer croppers than the thorny originals, but they are much more comfortable to live with in.
Blackberries benefit from tansy or stingingnearby and they make a good companion and sacrificial crop for . Epicurean attentions All these berries rot very quickly once picked, so jam or freeze them as soon as possible. Don’t eat the fruits after the frosts arrive as they taste poorer.
Blackberries stewed with apples, strained and sweetened make a delicious syrup for diluting as a refreshing drink.
Few compare with ‘Himalayan Giant’, the biggest and toughest – it could stop a runaway tank! It is ideal for keeping out unwanted visitors when planted along boundaries or trained over a fence and is highly productive. However, it needs a lot of space – at least three or four paces each way. ‘Bedford Giant’ fruits earlier and tastes better. The canes are also longer than ‘Himalayan Giant’, but not as thick or prolific, so they are more controllable. ‘Oregon Cutleaf’ is very decorative and probably the best tasting thornless blackberry but crops rather too late for colder regions. ‘Thornfree’ is a variety that is thornless, tasty and early.
Boysenberries are large, well-flavoured blackberries, but tend to make a lot of growth with disappointingly light crops.
Loganberries are crosses between raspberries and blackberries, the only one still worth growing is called LY654 which has a good flavour, unusual with a thornless variety.
Tayberries are like improved, sweeter loganberries, but with a much richer flavour – definitely the best of the family. They do better in light shade than full sun, and will even do well on a north wall.
Japanese wineberries are orange-red and tiny, but the flavour is delicious and thirst quenching. Children love them, and they are best eaten fresh. The canes are bristly, not thorny, and a lovely russet colour, and the leaves are attractive, making Japanese wineberries eminently suitable for an ornamental area.
Blueberries, bilberries, cranberries and cowberries
Long popular in the United States, the blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) is now widely cultivated in the UK instead of the similar bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus), which has become a scarce native. The cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccus) is closely related and similar apart from the colour of the berries. These need no pruning and rarely suffer much from pests or diseases but need moist acid conditions and although self-fertile will fruit better if different varieties are grown nearby. They need to be planted about a pace or two apart. They are all ericaceous and make excellent groundcover between rhododendrons and azaleas. But do not even think about growing them for crops unless you have genuine acid soil and almost waterlogged conditions, say by a pond or stream.
The purple berries of blueberries are delicious in tarts, muffins or made into jelly. Cranberries are invariably used as a sauce for turkey.