The blackberries are ripe. Behind the vegetable patch we built is a steep bank up to an unruly beech hedge, and our neighbour’s decking. Once this contained some fir trees, of the christmas tree type, not lylandii, but still threatening to overwhelm everything. A first outing for the chainsaw was removing these, but the branches remained left in a pile for a year or more, and the bank reverted to wilderness. The branches succumbed to a second attempt at a garden chipper (Bosch “turbine cut”, which is slow but amazing effective, unlike cheaper rotary efforts), composted down, and now mulch parts of the garden.
The wilderness persisted. There were hints dropped about the beech hedge from neighbours. This autumn past, I cleared the vegetation by hand, mostly with shears, and then the shredder, into a large pile to replace the previous mulch pile. The bank seemed too steep to trust the strimmer on. Then a hedge trimmer on a pole fought the hedge into some sort of shape. A saw and clippers took out cross branches, leaving gaps and a mess, but once in leaf (always late with beech) it looks well. A couple of Bird Cherry and Crab Apple whips planted in the winter will, in time, occupy the middle of the bank nicely.
I took out many of the brambles in the initial clear, but left one patch, just cutting back the stems to be contained. This seems to have paid of handsomely this year.
Brambles are part of the Rubus family. At least in my usage, they refer only to Blackberry bushes, but Raspberries are a closely related plant. Rubus Fruticosus is the broad family, but this seems a point of debate and confusion. Stems will grow repeatedly from the root system- the bank does not remain bramble free. In the first year aggressive stems will grow, climbing up trees and running along the ground; in my patch, these seem particularly vicious, and they will readily root when they touch the ground. But one should leave something of these, because it is only in the second year that they flower and fruit.
The berries are nothing of the sort, but rather “drupelets”, each mini berry being a tiny drupe, or stone fruit, much like a miniature peach, thankfully with a hardly noticeable stone. Inadequate pollination leads to only a few drupelets forming. We seem to have had a good pollinator year. Luck with the weather: dry, but not too hot, at the critical moment. The smaller garden helper was dispatched to collect the ripe berries, but in the end Jessica harvested most of them, garnering nearly an kilo and half so far, with more harvests to come.
There has been talk of a fruit cage, but this will now await until at least next year. Jessica planted two strawberry plants on the patio in a planter.
A few weeks ago, the top plant started putting out runners. These quite quickly develop small root systems with a leaf or two, and these can be planted, and then pinned in place: here I used some galvanised staples which had been holding some wire fence in place. Instantly full planter.
Today’s task was removing the old runners to make the new plants separate. One new plant was already itself producing a runner, so this was removed. The plants apparently age, and so need replacing every few years, and it seems that one could repeatedly allow runners to develop, cloning the plant forever.
The rowan on the middle lawn is in full fruit, and looking wonderful this year. Technically it is not a berry, but an accessory fruit. The tree on the lower level is not happy, though still alive, but some of the rowans in the field are dead. These need removing, and some replacements planted, but that is a task for another day, one perhaps not so pleasantly and lazily warm, in the dying days of summer. In the meantime, there is the promise of jelly and jam.