2013 trailing blackberry report
Heres my annual take on how various trailing blackberries have been doing. The background for those who missed previous reports is I am looking for a berry that tastes as good as Marionberry, my favorite blackberry, but can take the cold winters and hot/humid summers of Maryland. I have tested quite a few varieties over the years and found that most are either not hardy enough, or they stop growing and start looking sad once the heat of summer kicks in. Note that none of these are the standard east coast varieties, this is an experiment with western type berries in the east.
Past failures: Marionberry (not hardy), Loganberry (not hardy), Tayberry (didn't like flavor), Metolius (had no flavor), Cascade (not hardy/dislikes heat), Cascade Trailing (ditto), Wild Treasure (ditto).
This years data:
Black Diamond - Has a very "black" flavor like Marion, a good dark blackberry selection. When they are fully ripe they are a very good blackberry. They are not super sweet but the flavor is very good. It has been doing OK but not great as far as growing goes - better than many but they still shut down in the heat.
Kotata - Excellent as usual, sweet, rich and a bit of that clove aromatics of Logan. These berries have big drupes and are very soft when ripe - no good for commercial growing but great backyard fruits. Plants growing vigorously, but some of the ones from last year died back.
Siskiyou - Very similar to Kotata but larger. I also had a lot of dieback on these from the previous winter, partly due to lots of cane borer problems.
Boysenberry thorned - These have significantly less flavor than Kotata/Siskiyou. I had a couple dead ripe ones I could compare to Kotata ripe next plant over and the Kotata won hands down. Kotata is more sweet, more sour, more flavor. They are relatively easy growers and I will give them another year or two but they are not in my top category.
NZ 9671-1 - Not enough fruits for a good evaluation. It has more blackberry flavor in it than the Kotata et al. Berries are not developing good uniform shape or size. This plant is also not a good grower, it is too unhappy in the heat. Hardiness is OK. Heading to reject pile I expect.
Newberry - This is a very "fruity" berry with more true raspberry overtones than these hybrids usually have. Doesn't have the darker blackberry flavors even though it ripens to a darker color than Boysen/Kotata. Growth seems OK, similar to the other ones that are hanging in there. definitely a keeper.
Orus 1431-1 - Somewhat similar to Black Diamond in that its a black berry with good flavor but not a lot of sweetness. Seemed a bit better than BD in the flavor category. This guy seems to shut down on growing in the heat, the leaves curl up.
- no berries on any of these guys; they are not growing well enough to even fruit. Along with not taking the heat these guys all have hardiness issues (and they could be related, weak plants have a hard time making it through the winter). Almost certainly they will be rejects.
Overall, Kotata/Siskiyou/Orus 1431-1/Newberry all seem to be doing good enough to keep. They are not super happy with the heat but I expect I can keep a good stand of them going over the years - if they fail one year they still come back well the next. Black Diamond seems a touch down in terms of vigor. Boysen is in the top vigor category with the four above, but is not as flavorful. The rest are probably history.
Oh, my Triple Crown have not come in yet but thats my favorite "eastern" blackberry. U Ark. has a new one, Osage, that sounds like it will be worth trying out.