Growing blackberries

by Lila Das Gupta

Like a good perfume, a distinct flavour with strong associations can transport you right back to a different place - suddenly it's not an over-cast, chilly May, it's a warm, end of summer day.

Brambles are the unsung heroes of the fruit garden.

A couple of weeks ago I was spring cleaning my store cupboard when I found a stray jar of blackberry jam trapped behind the mountain of marmalade. The pleasure I got when we opened it for breakfast the next day was delicious. Like a good perfume, a distinct flavour with strong associations can transport you right back to a different place - suddenly it's not an overcast, chilly May, it's a warm, late-summer day and we are all outside tossing blackberries into large colanders.

I say all this wistfully, because I still haven't found a good jam-making blackberry that I want to plant on the plot. An allotment friend has kindly given me a rooted cutting of 'Black Butte', but I note from the details that this recent introduction is an enormous beast more than a couple of inches long. One company aptly suggests calling it 'black brute' because of the size of the fruit. This variety might be useful for a summer pudding, but it probably won't have the flavour I want for jam.

'Oregon Thornless' is another popular variety, but the flavour, again, does not, in my opinion, match that of wild blackberries. For good looks, 'Loch Maree' is another useful thornless variety with beautiful pink, double flowers, but  the flavour for me doesn't rival its wild cousins.

So, the only remedy is to go round our large allotment and ask people if I can try a blackberry or two, to identify something that I really like the taste of. Some blackberries, like those of my next door neighbour are juicy and sweet, and better suited to eating raw, but what I'm after has a more bosque-like quality to it.

If you find a blackberry you do like, they are easy to propagate by tip layering. In the summer you take one end of the blackberry shoot and place it tip down into the ground. Give it a little water if the weather is very dry.

By the end of the summer you will find that you can dig up the end, which will have rooted, and sever it from the mother plant, ready for re-planting. You can also place one of the long, new shoots of growth from a blackberry along the ground, cover it with soil, and wait for it to send out roots in the same way. When you dig the shoot up after a few weeks it will be ready to sever off and re-plant.

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Gardeners' World Web User 14/05/2010 at 16:57

Ashton Cross has a good flavour, maybe try that one?

Gardeners' World Web User 14/05/2010 at 20:40

why have most of my tulips come up blind an d what should i do

Gardeners' World Web User 16/05/2010 at 10:14

Thanks for the tip on Ashton Cross Jaye, I will hunt it down. Mike, where/ when/ how did you plant your tulips? Too deeply? (The most probable cause) In the shade? (Can inhibit flowering) or, as with daffodils, if you cut the plant back after flowering it doesn't have time to rejuvenate.

Gardeners' World Web User 14/06/2010 at 14:45

In your last programme Toby showed us his own design of compost bin and promised it would appear on the website. I cannot find it, please can you help?

Gardeners' World Web User 28/11/2011 at 18:40

regarding blackberry varieties ... I'm very interested about Doyle's Thornless has anyone tried these?

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