Planting and pruning fruit bushes

Work on our new fruit cage continues with the planting of various fruit bushes: currants, gooseberries, and a Japanese wineberry. Although we do not have as much space in the new cage, we have chosen some of our favourites of the soft fruit to grow here whilst dropping some of those that we were less bothered about.

The Jostaberry, for example, was never a favourite in the old fruit cage. We found it overly vigorous for the yield, which, in all but its last year, when the plant was grossly overgrown, was rather poor compared with a more modestly sized currant or gooseberry bush. The fruit, being somewhere between a black currant and gooseberry, was, we felt, generally inferior to both.

We have also abandoned the various raspberry-blackberry hybrids – Loganberries, Tayberries, Boysenberries, Tummelberries and so on. The Loganberry and Tayberry have some merit, with fruit that is more rich than a raspberry and especially useful in jams and compotes, but in general we prefer the flavour of a raspberry, especially for eating fresh, so now when space is more restricted we prioritised the raspberries. I might miss the occasional taste of a Loganberry but I will not miss the Boysenberries and Tummelberries; we were not particularly impressed with the flavour of the former, and the latter is a nasty spiny thing that, at least for us, lacked vigour and never yielded nearly as much as the others.

For those crops we have retained, we have a reduced collection of varieties – four raspberries instead of eight, five blueberries instead of eight, and two gooseberries instead of six. However, we should still get plenty of fruit for our purposes and, although the space is smaller, the planting is more dense.

We chose five currants: one white – Bar-le-Duc; three red – Jonkheer van Tets, Fay’s Prolific, and Wilson’s Long Bunch; and one black – Noir de Bourgogne. For gooseberries, we chose the red fruited Lancashire Lad and yellow fruited Early Sulphur, both capable of producing good dessert fruit if thinned and the remaining fruit allowed to develop fully.

The Japanese wineberry is probably our favourite of the berries, preferred even to the raspberries, so we had to make room for one of these. It is perhaps not so productive for the space it takes, the fruit is fairly small but stands well, is of consistently high quality, and looks and tastes delicious. It is a nasty spiny thing but that can be tolerated for such a wonderful fruit.

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