By Richard Flowers, ACCNP-Green Thumb Nursery-Ventura
What is a berry?
Let’s talk about Raspberries, Blackberries, and Boysenberries. As the name suggests they are berries right, but wrong? They are fruit, but they aren’t berries, but however Pumpkins, Oranges, and Bananas are all berries but they are not called berries right but then again wrong. Pumpkins, Oranges, and Bananas don’t have the word “berry” named attached to them, confused, well I will explain. For years and years the term “berry” arose because people called certain fruits “berries” before scientists came up with a precise definition for the word. It’s time to provide you a miniature botany lesson.
Most fruits develop from a single ovary, which is one of the female reproductive structures of a flower. In the case of Blackberries, Raspberries, and Boysenberries which are considered to be an aggregate fruit which means it is conglomeration of different carpels. These individuals have flowers with more than one ovary. To be a berry, fruits must develop from one flower that has one ovary. A carpel (aka Pistil), is one of the leaflike, seed-bearing structures that constitute the innermost whorl of a flower . Taken together they are called an ovary, the ovules, and the structures around them contribute directly to fruit formation. With that being said, lets talk all about aggregate fruits (Raspberries, Blackberries, and Boysenberries). Now that we got that out of the way let’s just call them berries for simplicity. Below you will become familiar with yummy, healthful, and vigorous berries.
Boysenberries, Raspberries, and Blackberries all belong to the Rose family of plants, in other words they are related to such common plants like the Rose, Apple, Peach, Cherry, and Indian Hawthorne. These berries all have the same genus name – Rubus. If you lump all the Raspberries, Blackberries, and Boysenberries together you can call them Rubus fruits named after their genus. These fruits are high-value and sought after for their delicious flavor and tremendous health benefits.
Before berries were domesticated, the primary use of them was medicinal and were foraged. There are records of the root, leaves, stem, and fruits being used to treat a variety of ailments. More recently, these fruits were found to be very high in secondary metabolites, such as anthocyanin and phenolics, that provide antioxidant capacity, supporting their reputation as “superfoods”. These berries are particularly high in dietary fiber, vitamins C and K, Iron, and Manganese. Modern cultivars are bred for the fresh market and processing (e.g., freezing, drying, canning), and for the home garden. These berries are usually eaten fresh, with cream or ice cream , as a dessert fruit, jams, jellies, and are the fruit is commonly used as a pastry filling . I love eating berry pie it is delicious, it is berry good.
Blackberries, Raspberries, and Boysenberries are commonly known as brambles or cane berries and generally grow as a deciduous vine like shrubs with biennial canes that are initiated from a perennial root system. The canes often have spines, ranging from hair-like to sharp thorns but some have no thorns. Growth forms can be erect, trailing, or more vine-like. They can propagate vegetatively, enabling some to be highly invasive. Once the plant is fully established the fruit may take 35–45 days to develop.
All the selections below should be able to produce a crop after 2 years from the date of planting depending conditions and the way they are cared for. All varieties are self fruitful except where noted. Berry plants produce long stems that grow from the ground called primocanes and floricanes. Primocanes are canes in their first year of growth, while floricanes are canes that are in their second year of growth. Primocane and floricane describe the stage of growth a berry cane or branch is in. Primocanes are the green, fleshy stalks that grow each year. During the first year of growth, the new primocane develops brown bark, then goes through a dormant or rest period in winter and becomes a floricane during the
second growing season.
When pruning please keep in mind the following concept. In spring, you should start to see new green sprouts coming up from both soil and on some of the old canes. The sprouts from the ground will become canes that will fruit the following year. Old canes with new growth emerging should fruit this year. Leave all the new shoots from the ground and old canes that have green leaves emerging. Cut all the dead canes with no new growth at ground level. Berry canes grow to their full size the first year and bear fruit the second. After fruiting, the canes die and new ones replace them.
Berries flourish in full sun in most climates but tolerate some afternoon shade in hot interior locales. They prefer rich, moist soil, and generous fertilization. When planting it is suggested to use the same type of soil you use for other acid loving plants like ferns, Azaleas, and Gardenias and till in the amendments well before planting. Fertilize the plants 4–6 weeks after planting, with an acid fertilizer. In subsequent years, fertilize in early spring and again in early July. Adding 1–2” of compost or well-rotted manure as a side dressing around each plant in spring which will improve the soil’s texture and add nutrients. The plants require good drainage. Berries love mulch over the soil. It is best to provide a 3-5 inch layer of organic material that will help keep the soil moist, reduce water evaporation form the soil up to 50 – 60%, reduce competing weeds, improve the soil structure as it breaks down, and add to the soils bioactivity.
When watering it is a good practice keep the leaves dry, that way they are less likely to develop foliar diseases like rust. I suggest to use drip irrigation instead of overhead watering. Berries prefer regular watering from spring until after harvest. Because the root system is in the top two feet of soil, watering regularly is better than an occasional deep soaking. They need 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week. When planting berries, one technique that may be implemented is to plant them 3 feet apart, in rows 5 to 6 feet apart. The plants can be treated as freestanding shrubs, but are more satisfactory trained on a fence or a set of wires. They require support to prevent the canes from wind damage, bending over, cracking, and getting out of control.
You may want to consider planting your berries along a fence or wall which makes them easier to manage and pick. You can also grow them on a trellis. Providing support for the plants will not only keep them healthier and more productive, but it will also keep them looking more attractive. Berries are pollinated by bees.
Raspberries vs Blackberries
Both Raspberries and Blackberries are perennial shrubs that produces sweet, red or black fruits. At maturity Raspberries detach from the receptacle (the part of a flower stalk where the parts of the flower are attached). While Blackberries and many hybrids do not, and the receptacle is picked with the fruit. When eating I prefer to eat Raspberries fresh alone while Blackberries are more tart as compared to Raspberries.
Blackberries have smoother textures compared to the skin of the Raspberries which are known to have tiny hairs. Raspberries ripen faster compared to Blackberries.
Raspberries are heralded by many as the tastiest of all berries. They are very delicate and cannot be kept for longer than a few days – a week at most in the refrigerator. They do, however, freeze well. Did you know that cultures form different parts of the world eat Raspberries because of its love-inducing properties. It is even taken in as a tea to avoid morning sickness and nausea during pregnancy.
Caroline Raspberry is a summer through fall bearing, red berry with exceptional flavor. Primocane type, meaning it produces on new wood. Caroline provides large yields and is more tolerant to phytophthora root rot than other varieties. Best when given afternoon shade. This Raspberry has an outstanding flavor, firm, and juicy fruit. If you are to eat a fresh Raspberry, Caroline would be the one. Caroline is very adaptable and well-suited for Southern California. The large berries have a very rich, sweet, full-bodied flavor. In many areas, you can pick berries for 6-8 weeks. Plants can reach 4-6 ft. tall when mature.
Jewell Black Raspberry Unlike most other Raspberries, Jewell produces compact clusters of large to very large glossy black fruit and has a rich Raspberry flavor and is seedier and firmer than regular Raspberries. At first the fruit is reddish, then maroon, then when finally ripe it is dark purple / black. What’s cool about this unique variety is that you can see all stages of coloring at once on an upright vine which adds an
interesting effect. Jewell provides you with high quality and one of the largest of the black Raspberries there is. Harvest usually occurs May-June on vigorous, hardy plants that are the most disease resistant of all black Raspberries. no support required. This variety clumps or “hills” that stay where you originally plant them. They do not produce root suckers. A suggestion when planting is to set them 4 feet apart.
Although it does not send up new primocanes outside the hill, they can spread. The long canes often
arch down to the soil surface, where they may take root. It’s important to keep the canes in check .This selection is adaptable to growing in our area.
Ever bearing red raspberries, also called “fall-bearing” or “primocane-fruiting” Raspberries, are able to grow flowers during the first year. These varieties produce fruit at the tips of the primocanes. During the second year, they can produce a summer crop on the lower part of the same canes. A good example of this type of Raspberry is Baba Berry.
Baba Berry Red Raspberry is a fine flavored Raspberry that bears a heavy crop May-July with a smaller late summer crop through fall. This selection exhibits extra large sweet, firm, and excellent flavored fruits up to 1 1/2″ long and requires warm weather and is particularly well suited to Southern California’s mild coastal locales and hot inland areas. Developed in Southern California.
Raspberry Shortcake® This dwarf, thornless bush Raspberry thrives in a patio pot or in the landscape. A smaller growing, compact Raspberry that requires no staking, grows in limited areas, gives full size berries, could be grown in containers or in the ground, what more could you ask for? Raspberry Shortcake® grows to a height of 3′. This selection produces an abundant crop of sweet Raspberries in midsummer, grows well in Zones 4-9. Est. chill requirement 500 hours or less, meaning it will do fairly well and adapt to mild winter areas . U.S. plant patent #22141.
While on the subject of dwarf Raspberries, I want you to meet its companion that would work beautifully together with Raspberry Shortcake. Just imagine having a dwarf Raspberry and to pair it up with a dwarf Blackberry with an added benefit.
Baby Cakes® Blackberry What a good name for a dwarf, thornless bush Blackberry that is perfect for a patio pot. This thornless variety produces large, sweet berries in the summer often with a second crop in most regions. Baby Cakes is more at home growing in inland areas rather than coastal areas, but I sincerely believe they could adapt and be well worth the effort growing in cooler areas. Enjoy large, sweet berries from compact, upright plants. Grows well in containers! Fall-bearing (ever bearing) primocane with a summer crop. Floricane berries ripen in July. Primocane berries ripen in September through frost. U.S. plant patent #27,032. This variety should do equally well in our growing zone.
Olallie Blackberry- This trailing, early variety bears elongated, medium to large shiny black fruit, and does not have a hollow center. This Blackberry is very sweet, undoubtedly my favorite Blackberry for fresh eating. Olallie provides fruit late May to early July. Many people just call it by the name of Olallieberry and is a cross between a Blackberry, a Loganberry and a Youngberry; with the later two berries having been
cross-pollinated with Raspberries. This complex parentage contributes to its depth of flavor that has led some to call it the “king of blackberries.”
Olallie Blackberry comes from the Northwestern Native American’s word “Olalli” for berry. Hence, when translated, Olallieberry equals berry berry. This selection provides medium size berries that are sweeter than tart with an old- fashioned wild Blackberry flavor. The Ollie was developed in Oregon but does extremely well in California. This Blackberry is adaptable, and grows best in zones 4- 11 meaning it will do well our climate.
Marion Blackberry is medium to large size, firm, sweet, and, one of my favorite pies is made with the mouth watering Marion Berry. This selection provides you long harvest, June through summer and grows on vine-like canes. It is the most common form of Blackberry cultivated.
Black Satin This heat tolerant selection provides you with a honey flavored, heavy yielding, medium to large Blackberries in July. The thornless, semi erect canes are vigorous, minimal suckering, hardy, and disease resistant. This Blackberry offers berries that are 1.5″ to 2″ that are glossy black color fading to dull when ripe. Self- fruitful, but unlike other varieties it is more productive with another variety.
Black Satin’ produces its fruits on floricanes (canes on second year growth), so pruning should be timed to take advantage of this two-year growth cycle.
Triple Crown Blackberry is named for its three crowning attributes: flavor, productivity and vigor. Large, firm and flavorful berries that grow on thornless plants. Can produce up to 30 lbs. of fruit per vine. Due to its adaptability it is one of the best Blackberries to grow in our area. This variety is a summer-bearing floricane, providing you with one large harvest late season. This is a heat-tolerant Blackberry plant can grow in partial shade but prefers full sun.Hands down an excellent tasting Blackberry.
When I was younger I loved to put Knotts Berry Farm Boysenberry jam on my toast it was yummy and brings me back to my childhood. Thornless Boysenberry is a hybrid of Blackberry, Raspberry, Dewberry and Loganberry. Very large berry up to 2.5″, dark maroon in color with an intense, tangy, sweet flavor. Excellent quality with few seeds and a pleasant aroma. Vine-like trailing growth habit. Harvest through summer and would have no trouble growing here.
The Boysenberry was developed in the early 1920s by horticulturist Rudolph Boysen of Anaheim, California, who later turned it over to farmer Walter Knott for commercial development of Knott’s Berry Farm . Mr Knott popularized the fruit, began growing the berries in the early 1930’s, and his wife, Cordelia Knott, made them into jams and pies.
The popularity of her cooking with Boysenberries led in large part to the eventual development of the amusement park. Boysenberries are larger and sweeter than Blackberries, but comparable to them and Raspberries in taste.
I encourage you to stop on by your favorite Green Thumb Nursery and consider these nutritious and popular plants while supplies last. Nothing beats the delicious taste of home grown fruits especially the joy of picking a delectable berry and knowing that you are eating a superfood. I encourage to plant berries they are berry good.
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