Blackberry and Hybrid Berries

Many people will have fond childhood memories of picking blackberries from wild brambles in hedgerows during the summer holidays. Thankfully, modern cultivated varieties of blackberry no longer have the razor sharp thorns, nor do they grow into vigorous, rampant plants threatening to take over the garden. The berries are also much larger, juicier and sweeter - even if they fail to live up to those childhood memories!

The hybrid berries have been produced by cross breeding blackberries with raspberries. They are dark red in colour and have a very distinct tangy flavour. But in most other respects they resemble blackberries.

Both blackberries and the hybrid berries are good for eating fresh, use in desserts and make excellent jams. They also freeze well for use in the winter. They can be grown throughout the UK. In fact the mild British summer weather is ideal. Most varieties grow and crop best in full sun but will tolerate partial shade. Although they need a structure of posts and wires for support, once that has been set up they are easy to grow. Click here for a guide to choosing blackberry and hybrid berries.

Blackberry plants

Hybrid berry plants

How to choose blackberry and hybrid berries

Please find below some information that you may find helpful in selecting blackberry and hybrid berry plants:

Growth habit and training. Blackberries and hybrid berries are cane fruit. The fruit is produced on long branchless shoots that grow from the roots out of the ground and are referred to as canes. These can grow more than 2m/7ft in length. The canes die after cropping and are replaced by new canes growing from the base. Unlike raspberries which are planted with individual canes fairly close together in a line, blackberry and hybrid berry plants are generally more vigorous and need to be planted further apart. A spacing of 2-3m/7-10ft is sufficient for most varieties, but some of the modern compact varieties can be planted closer together. A structure comprising of posts and wires is needed to support the canes. The canes need to be wound around and tied to the wires. A trellis can also be used for supporting the canes. Blackberries and hybrid berries are mostly floricanes which means that they produce fruit on the previous year’s canes. However primocane varieties which produce fruit on the current year’s growth are also now available. The maintenance regime for the two types is different. In both cases all the canes which have produced fruit are cut back to the ground. In the case of floricane varieties these are only some of the canes. The best of the new canes which have not yet produced fruit are left for the following year. In the case of the primcane varieties this is usually all the canes. New canes will emerge the spring.

Cropping season. The blackberry cropping season lasts from late July for the earliest varieties in southern England (and later for more northern regions) to the first autumn frosts. There are early, mid-season and late varieties each with their own period of cropping. Hybrid berries crop earlier from mid July to early August in southern England. If you plan to grow more than one variety, you should choose varieties with the minimum overlap of cropping to spread your season.

Growing in containers. Blackberries and hybrid berries can be grown in containers and planter. Use a soil based John Innes No 3 compost and 20L or larger pots.

Blossom and Pollination. All blackberries and hybrid berries are self-fertile and individual varieties can be grown on their own. They have large, attractive, normally white blossom.