Western (trailing) blackberry report 2013

Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)April 10, 2013

I have been trying many varieties of trailing blackberry looking for one that works for me. Here is how things did in the last 12 months.

Last summer was really hot and several of the varieties got extremely unhappy. All the plants that were in very shaded areas did better than the full sun ones, so that says the heat was too much for them. I had thought that hardiness would be my biggest problem, and while it is still a big problem I also need to look for high heat tolerance. Also it could be that I allocate more shady spots for them only and just put up with less yield. Note that I can also see a clear correlation on how the heat affected a plant and its hardiness, this is due to the heat setting back the vigor which causes the plant to not overwinter well.

Heres the low-down, these are grouped by hardiness.

Thorny Boysenberry - my one plant did fantastic, both grew well in heat and had zero dieback. Two more plants on order from berries unlimited.
Black Diamond - Grew reasonably well and little dieback. Also getting more of these. They took awhile to get established but seem to be on the path to being a winner.
Obsidian - I have had vigor problems on this variety, the leaves often get this curling in them. But, they appear to be reasonably hardy.
Kotata - This plant was hardy. Some plants did OK in the heat but some got badly fried.

Somewhat hardy
NZ 9671-1 - This guy was about 80% surviving. It didn't like the heat but didn't get fried by it either.
Siskiyou - This variety has been good in past years but did poorly this winter. It also did not do well in the heat. The one plant in the shady spot did great on both hardiness and vigor. I am going to still call it somewhat hardy based on past years good results and the heat problems of this summer.

Not very hardy
Orus 1431-1 - This did not do very well at all in the heat, but its new so it gets another summer.
Newberry - These are new but I planted them the same time as Boysenberry which did a whole lot better; most of the Newberry died back. Not looking very hardy.
Onyx - Most did badly with complete dieback. It also did very poorly in the heat. Shaded plants did great on both counts.
NZ 9351-4 - Same as Onyx more or less

Not hardy, time to remove
Wild Treasure - This variety is the most heat sensitive; most of the plants died. Even the shaded ones did not do well.
Cascade trailing - similar to Wild Treasure
Cascade - Somewhat better than the above two but I lost most of the plant this winter.


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Scott - I have been looking forward to your update...very interesting. All of my Western trailing varieties are leafing out and there appears to have been little damage during the winter, though I didn't leave them outside in temperatures below the mid-teens. I'm going to get them planted in a couple of weeks when I'm sure we are past the freezes. Seems like my Thorny Boysenberry and Silvan are the quickest to leaf out. When did your boysen fruit last year?

    Bookmark   April 10, 2013 at 10:59AM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

I just got the Boysen last year, this will be the first fruiting year for it.

By the way I noticed I forgot to mention above that the previous winter was pretty harsh. It didn't get super cold but there was a lot of cold windy weather. The combo of the hot summer and cold winter were a good test of adaptability.


    Bookmark   April 10, 2013 at 4:23PM
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The boysens I have (5 in containers) are pretty dang durable with both heat and cold. Im in a 6a and we get colds in the single digits and highs in the summer above 100. usually only for a few weeks though. Zero dieback and all are performing very well. Impressed with the boysens will be expanding those at the expense of a few other varieties that didnt perform as well. BTW they are all in full sun 10+ hours.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2013 at 7:18PM
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As mentioned earlier, I didn't leave my plants out all winter (all winter except maybe 3 weeks) but they were in the record heat last year. The heat didn't seem to really bother the blackberries and raspberries last summer as long as I watered them frequently. That goes for the ones in pots and planted. Of all of the trailing varieties, black diamond was the slowest growing, but I only have one plant so that may be a one off. The wild treasure blackberry grew over 6ft last year from a 4" inch pot and seemed pretty vigorous. I tip layered it and the resulting new plant already has two new canes coming up. Again, that may be a one off. The only trailing blackberry to have any die off was one of my marionberry plants. All of the planted blackberries varieties (Ouachita, Prime Ark45, Kiowa and Triple Crown) didnâÂÂt show any die off this year. The jewel black raspberries have not sprouted this year yet from the bare root plants I put out in late fall. I think I read somewhere on the forum that they can be late to sproutâ¦.hopefully.

On your advice, I did buy 5 kotata and have those planted in the berry patch and decided to have some variety in flavor with loganberry (4 plants). I also recently bought a couple of Obsidian from Raintree and they appear to be in good shape and growing well already.

What has really worked well was the raspberry rootstock I purchased the past two years. I tried Caroline Raspberry rootstock last year ($10 worth) and it produced over 30 canes. This year I had to try it again and bought the same amount of Cascade Delight and put it in nursery pots. I have small sprouts in 6 of 7 pots already. Scenic Hill Farm sells it online and on Ebay (bought mine on Ebay). I not really sure what IâÂÂm going to do with all of those raspberries but may I setup a fruit stand at the end of the driveway and let my kids sell them to neighbors. ïÂÂ

    Bookmark   April 10, 2013 at 7:56PM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

AB, I think your results convinced me to get these thorny Boysens and I'm glad I did -- they are winning the race now.

JT, I don't remember where you live but you may not be getting the heat I am getting. My main blackberry planting is on a south slope and gets nailed by the sun. Either that or maybe I should have watered my plants more in the heat. We didn't have a lot of dry heat, it was raining plenty in hot spells so I didn't see a need to water.

Black Diamond does seem very slow growing. I also started out with the tiny Raintree plants which take forever to get established. Berries Unlimited is much better. Their plants are 1-gallon not quart, for not much more money.


    Bookmark   April 10, 2013 at 8:50PM
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Scott. I have to say out of all the varieties I have (8 now i think) that plant has impressed me the most. On another note raspberries planted with rootstock is definitely the way to go planted caroline and anne that way and they took off like rockets performance and vigor was over 2-3 times that of store or nursery purchased plants. Gonna try some logans next :)

    Bookmark   April 10, 2013 at 10:32PM
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My berry patch is on a north-facing slope that is sheltered by woods to the east side. Our heat last year hit 100F several times, very unusual, but the summer was very dry, drought-like. I hand watered the plants relentlessly last year and most seemed to do fine. This year I'm going to invest in a drip irrigation system. More efficient watering but also reduces the chance for plant fungus. My boysenberry plants picked up leaf spot last year. I sprayed with copper this year to hopefully nip that in the bud..no pun intended.

I just received 3 new loganberry plants from Burnt Ridge and they were about 18" tall, potted, and very healthy. They were probably not a 1-gallon size but they were only $7 each I think.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2013 at 10:49PM
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Note that the area where many of the newer western varieties are developed and tested (Willamette Valley) has an all-time heat wave duration of 10 consecutive days for 90+ degrees and three or four days consecutive for 100+ degrees. We average less than 20 90's and 3 100's per year.

Black Diamond is a dainty cane compared to Triple Crown.

Earlier-ripening varieties such as Obsidian, thornless Logan, and Black Diamond may become preferable here as the majority might ripen before the peak fruit fly populations of August.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2013 at 10:53PM
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bob_z6(6b/7a SW CT)

AB, did you overwinter your boysenberry containers in a protected environment, or outside? I was so happy with mine that I tip rooted 3 more into 5 gal buckets. Given that they are supposed to be hardy to zone 6, I figured that containers should be brought inside for the worst of the winter cold. I brought mine (along with Marionberry, SHB blueberries, and poms) into the garage (~45 degrees) just before the outside temps went below 15-20 (coldest was 8). If you left them outside in 6a and were fine, I won't bother carting them inside next year...

The thread from last year was here.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2013 at 11:22PM
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I left them out to test how durable they were. Lowest low this year was 7 degrees. have plenty of canes to tip root this year so I'm definitely going to expand, although I've heard that they are pretty productive after the 3-4 year mark. ill be at that point after this growing season. I've also seen that the thorny varieties according to some sites are good to zone 5. Considering that I container planted them and the roots were semi exposed because of this, it must be true. :)

    Bookmark   April 11, 2013 at 12:15AM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

Thanks for the info on the brambles. I prepared a raised bed for more raspberries, and a row in ground for blackberries. Both are 24 feet long. I have grown raspberries for some time. I'm more interested in making jam as family and friends count on me to make it every year, the demand has exceeded the supply! Anyway I need a tart berry. I figure I could probably harvest early to get that with any berry.
I also like to grow unusual cultivars. I have been looking for Valentina cultivar raspberry from the UK. It is an orange colored variety that is highly disease resistant and very tasty too! Anybody having it, man I would love a sucker or even a cutting of that one!
On blackberries it sounds like Triple Crown is a for sure winner. Others on this site have mixed reviews. Probably depending on location if plants performs well. The hybrids sound interesting, and obviously the thorny boysenberry is a winner. I wanted to add one from Berries unlimited, but at the time they were out of stock. They have them in now. But I already ordered a thorny one from Raintree. Sounds like a good berry for jam too, starting off tart, then becoming more sweet. I'm trying the wyeberry. It will be planted this year, so no report on it for awhile. Talk about hard to find! Looking for some time, finally obtained one, but super small, I may grow in a pot until bigger.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2013 at 9:29AM
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Here's a picture of 3 of my thorny boysen as of yesterday. I planted them in the middle of the summer last year (7/23 according to my log) and they grew some but not a lot. This year, they are already leafed out and have at least 3-4 new canes popping out a couple of inches. I'm holding off planting them in the berry patch until later in April just in case we get a freak weather day and it frosts again. I live in Northern KY, about 20 miles northwest of Cincinnati.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2013 at 9:50AM
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In the center is my 'wild treasure' blackberry with loganberry to the left and a random flower pot to the right. The 'wild treasure' blackberry was planted 7/3 last summer along with the loganberry. Both from Raintree. I planted berries all summer and fall, despite it not being optimal planting times. I figured that I would get a headstart on the 2013 season if I did. Picture taken yesterday (4/10/13).

    Bookmark   April 11, 2013 at 9:57AM
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FYI on the Boysens. If you pick them before they are completely ripe it is like eating the most sour sour patch item you can imagine. Quite funny giving one to my mouthy 14 year old lol. When they darken and become "plump" they are amazing, kind of a sweet/tart mixture that i've never had before. Shelf life on them is quite short though so with the quantity i had last year i just ate them all fresh.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2013 at 3:23PM
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This is a great thread thanks a lot.

I'm starting my trial of these this season as well. Thorny boysen, obsidian, siskiyou, black diamond, loganberry, and marionberry are all being given a shot. Hopefully the marion turns out just barely hardy enough, otherwise sounds like thorny boysen will be the favorite for the win.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2013 at 7:42AM
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Scott has started an unofficial berry hardiness experiment that is being repeated around the country! What would be especially interesting is if we could consolidate our findings somewhere as a resource for all to reference. Just some of the influencing factors (e.g. western trailing berry hardiness) that have been identified by Scott and others include: (1) absolute lowest winter temperature, (2) direct exposure to wind, (3) amount (e.g. hours of sunlight) sun exposure, (4) direction of sun exposure, and (5) rainfall.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2013 at 10:16AM
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