The blackberry season has arrived and, for once, I’m going to be honest with myself: I really, really don’t like blackberrying. For years I’ve pretended to enjoy toddling off down the road, slasher in one hand and ice-cream container in the other, to fight my way painfully through a thicket of thorns, scratch my arms to pieces and return home with a cup (or two, at the most) of, often, extremely tart berries. I know children, especially, love to forage, and that the fun is largely in the chase, but personally, I’m over it.
Lucky for me, then, that while recently visiting a garden in search of a story, I discovered a berry that was everything I have ever dreamed of (but didn’t know existed). Call me slow, but I simply hadn’t encountered these delicious fruit before. The ones I happened upon were occupying a back wall of the garden, growing in the most dreary summer conditions imaginable, yet sporting outrageously fat, juicy berries as long as my little finger. Despite non-existent sunshine for weeks on end, they seemed completely productive and, according to their growers, had been fruiting for half the summer! When I tasted one, so exquisite was the flavour I thought I must have taken a wrong turning and ended up in the Garden of Eden. “I want one of those!” I said, like a spoiled child, and immediately went home to do the research.
What I had stumbled upon, it seems, was a ‘Hybrid Berry’. These crosses have all the vigour of my less-than-favourite blackberry and the dependability of raspberries. But their fruit is superior to both. Though I have heard of loganberries (a blackberry/raspberry cross) and jostaberries (a blackcurrant/gooseberry cross) and have the jostaberry’s cousin, the Worcesterberry, in my garden, a Hybrid Berry is something different altogether. In fact, it turns out some Hybrid Berries are crosses of crosses!
It was all beginning to get a little confusing so I phoned the couple whose garden I had been to visit (at the same time feeling somewhat embarrassed that a couple aged 89 and 90 respectively were ahead of me in the world of modern berries) and found that the fruit I’d been drooling over in their garden was a Hybrid ‘Berry Delight’. I also discovered that I hadn’t exaggerated the size or flavour of its fruit which is described as ‘large, dark rich-red, and mouth watering. Turns out it is a cross between a boysenberry and a loganberry. Even better, it’s thornless and a heavy cropper. It’s botanical name is Rubus hybrid ‘Marahau’ and because it a ‘PVR’ plant (which means it’s copyrighted) I’ll have to fork out and purchase it from a garden centre rather than grow it from a cutting which is not permitted.
But so enamoured of this new (to me, anyway) growable delight that I’m more than happy to pay for it. I have the perfect conditions to accommodate it: a moist, temperate (aka: lots of rain and not a super abundance of sunshine) summer climate, a degree of winter chill, and access to loads of well-rotted compost and plenty of animal manure (bless those donkey-boys of ours). I’m more than happy to give over a built-up bed on the sunny side of the house to my Berry Delight, and will bend over backwards to provide it with lashings of liquid manure in spring. Mulch isn’t a problem either. In fact nothing is a problem where these berries are concerned. I just want them – as soon as possible! And so, I can guarantee, will you!