[NAFEX] Zone 4/3 Blackberries

John Bunker john.p.bunker at gmail.com
Tue Nov 30 13:55:34 EST 2010

Hello all,

Interesting discussion.  Most  - perhaps all -commercial blackberries  
are not hardy enough to fruit regularly in zone 4 as far as I can  
tell.  Over the years we have discovered a small number of old large- 
fruited cultivated varieties in central and even northern Maine.  When  
the blackberries are in bloom, study the roadsides and you will be  
rewarded from time to time.  This past season was a banner year up  
this way.  We find them on abandoned farm sites and as heirlooms on  
old family farms.  They usually no longer have a varietal name,  
although most probably did so long ago.  We trial them around amongst  
ourselves and offer them in the catalog from time to time.  While easy  
to propagate in small quantities from root pieces, blackberries are  
not super easy to propagate in large quantities without resorting to  
TC. We have worked with Tim Nourse (Nourse Farms) in the past in that  
regard and may do so again this year with one that we like very  
much.   Check out our catalog now and then if interested, or contact  
me off-list.

Best regards,
John Bunker
trees at fedcoseeds.com
PO Box 520
Waterville ME 04903

On Nov 30, 2010, at 12:11 PM, Sherlock Terry wrote:

> Hi Everyone,
> Around me (northern VT) we have lots of wild blackberries (in  
> addition to wild red and black raspberries). The blackberries are ok  
> if you find them at the right time, but don't produce all that well,  
> are pretty small and seedy, and are not overly delicious in my  
> opinion. Based on my experience with the wild ones and the  
> difficulty in finding hardy cultivars, I thought I wouldn't plant  
> any blackberries. Last year I started hearing about some folks with  
> old patches of now forgotten named varieties and this year there  
> were absolutely perfect flowering conditions. You could spot  
> abandoned farmyard blackberry patches a mile away and there were a  
> lot of them. At a local county fair in late July I saw overflowing  
> bowls of giant blackberries entered in the fruit competitions from a  
> number of folks. I also ran into a couple of people with their own  
> stands. The berries were a whole different world from the wild ones!  
> This fall I dug some up from a neighbor and will see how they do on  
> my site. She said they produce consistently with no dieback. They  
> are ultra thorny and about 6' if left unpruned, but I don't thinking  
> the picking is very difficult if they are well managed.
> I think there was some discussion about the hardiest blackberries on  
> the list before and I saw that the last couple of years Fedco is  
> selling a similar sounding blackberry to the one I tried and  
> transplanted. Here's the Fedco link:
> http://www.fedcoseeds.com/trees/search.php?item=2751&listname=Blackberry
> From Lewis Hill (old VT nurseryman b. 1924)
> "Few Nurseries carry the older, hardy kinds anymore, so growers in  
> cold areas may have trouble locating a blackberry that will produce  
> fruit. Snyder, an old-time hardy one, is still being sold, but  
> unfortunately, its size and quality are inferior to modern  
> blackberries. Northern growers sometimes find some of the old  
> cultivars on abandoned farms and transplant these to their gardens."  
> Fruits and Berries...p 168
> It would be interesting to learn some more of the history around the  
> old varieties. I guess I've never tried non-grocery store  
> blackberries to compare mine with, but I wouldn't describe the ones  
> I tried as small or of poor quality.
> -Sherlock
> z4 VT
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