Wild Blackberry- Zone 2
Characteristics of the tree
Blackberries are very similar to raspberries, (black raspberries, especially, are often confused with blackberries.) The most important distinction between them is that raspberries have a hollow core, while blackberries are attached to a greenish-white core.
Since our plants are selected from the wild, the size and flavour of blackberries varies considerably depending on species and individual plants, and environmental conditions such as sunlight and soil type will also have an effect. They are always tasty, with their typical sweet-acidic flavour, and some more fruity, spicy aromas that tend to remind us of the coming of winter.
Blackberries ripen from late August to mid-September. To check if a blackberry is properly ripe, make sure it is completely black, with no red drupes. It should also come off the plant easily. It is a good practice to check the core after you pick the fruit: it should be white or pale green, while if it is brownish or discoloured, this means that the berry is past its best.
These tasty berries are most popularly used in baking and preserves, often in combination with apples such as in a delicious apple and blackberry crumble, or apple and blackberry jelly – but rather a lot of them tend to make it into our stomachs while we are cooking with them!
Blackberry brambles are in the same family as raspberry, but the word ‘blackberry’ actually includes a large number of separate species which tend to hybridize naturally in the wild. Those that we are propagating are generally thorny and tend to grow upright.
Like raspberries, these plants produce their fruit on two-year-old canes. They are very hardy, up to zone 2, and they can grow in poor and rocky soil but do not at all appreciate wet soil. They prefer a lot of sunlight and the fruit will generally taste sweeter where the plant has been exposed to more sun.
These plants also tend to spread very easily, and can become invasive, so it is better to consider this wisely when choosing where to plant them. For example, they can be an ideal choice to plant in an area of your garden with poorer or rocky soil where little else will grow easily.
Pruning them back regularly (see the section on care for more details) will also help to prevent them from spreading too much. The plants that we sell are wild, so they can have variable characteristics.
The bramble is a perennial, so its roots survive during the winter and continue to grow and spread constantly. However, the bramble only has a life span of two years. So, how does this work? The first year, the roots produce a new stem which will grow without producing fruit for the whole summer. The second year, this same stem will produce fruit in July and August. After producing the fruit, this stem will become dry and woody, and will die. At the end of fall, this dry stem can be cut at ground level.
As the roots are perennial, they will continue to produce many stems which will continue to fill the row of plants. When you plant a blackberry cane, many factors can contribute to causing the stem to die. This is not really a problem, as what is important here is not the stem, but the roots. Wait a few weeks, and take a close look at the base of the dead stem to ascertain whether a new stem is emerging from the ground. If so, everything is normal, and you will have fruit next year.
The roots of the blackberry canes are e-x-t-r-e-m-e-l-y sensitive to drying out during plantation. As with all the plants we sell, the blackberry plants are sold bare-rooted. This means that when you receive them, they are not in pots but are packed in earth and wrapped in thick plastic. When you open the package, the roots will be exposed to air and sun and will start to dry out. The roots can dry out and die in less than 30 seconds!
How do you plant without drying the roots? It’s simple. Dig your holes before you open the package; situate yourself beside the first hole, take out one plant at a time, close the package again immediately, and bury the roots of the blackberry plant without delay. Continue this way with the other holes. The important step is to close the package immediately after taking each plant out.
Alternatively, you can also open the package and place all the plants in a bucket of water, and go from hole to hole with the bucket, planting each plant as soon as it is taken out of the bucket. Warning! Ensure that there is enough water in the bucket to cover the entire root system of the plants.
Once all the canes are planted, water them abundantly. Planted this way, you should have a 100% success rate.
Once fall has arrived, you can cut off all stems that produced fruit during the year. These stems are easily recognisable as they will be dry and woody. The dry stems can be cut at ground level using pruning shears. This is not mandatory, but is more like a clean up and it will ensure next year’s harvest is abundant.
In regards to overly tall 1 year old stems that have not yet produced fruit – it is possible to trim these to a height of 3 feet high (1m).
All our blackberry canes are sold bare-root, without pots. They have been cultivated directly in our soil. Bare-root trees must be taken out of the ground and shipped during their period of dormancy, which is why we only ship trees in the spring. A big advantage with these kinds of trees is that they take up very little space, and can therefore be easily shipped by mail all over Canada!
This photograph shows a 1-2-foot blackberry cane, just like one that you might receive.