Information About Japanese Wineberry
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Japanese Wineberry Plants – Caring For Japanese Wineberries
By Amy Grant
If you love raspberries, you will likely fall head over heels for the berries of Japanese wineberry plants. Never heard of them? What are Japanese wineberries? Find out more information in the article that follows and learn about their invasive tendencies.
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Rubus phoenicolasius - Japanese wineberry
This plant is deciduous so it will lose all its leaves in autumn, then fresh new foliage appears again each spring.
- Position: full sun
- Soil: fertile, well-drained soil
- Rate of growth: fast-growing
- Hardiness: fully hardy
Still quite rare here in the UK, but hopefully that will all change quite soon. These incredibly sweet, orange red to dark red berries are delicious if picked and eaten straight from the bush when they ripen in August, or can be cooked up in the same way as you would raspberries (which they are closely related to). They come on a large, deciduous bush that is easy to grow, although you will get the best fruit when it is trained against a sunny, south-facing wall or fence.
Eventual height & spread
Notes on Rubus phoenicolasius - Japanese wineberry
"Grow them up against a fence or along a post and wires to create garden divisions" Lucy Summers - Greenfingers Guides
Berry good: Raising soft fruit has become the latest growing trend
AFTER years of being banished to the allotment, raising soft fruit has become the latest growing trend. What’s more, it’s tasty and saves cash, too, says Alan
Raising soft fruit has become the latest growing trend. It's also tasty and saves cash
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After suffering from an image problem for years, soft fruit is enjoying a renaissance. Today, you don’t need an allotment jammed with straggly gooseberries and blackcurrant bushes because “new look” fruit is the latest ingredient of designer gardens. It can be tailored to fit into the smallest spaces and is as handsome as any berried ornamental shrubs.
Growing your own is good for you, too. It means healthy eating, especially if you grow organically, and it’s a big saving. Have you seen the price of soft fruit in shops lately?
“So where,” you may be wondering, “could I possibly fit fruit bushes into my tiny back garden?” Easy. Grow U-shaped, cordon-trained redcurrants against a warm, sunny wall on one side of your patio or against a fence at the back of borders that face south or west.
You can do the same with gooseberries, which makes the fruit a heck of a lot easier to pick than fighting your way through sprawling, prickly bushes, or, better still, buy standard-trained gooseberries and grow them in flower borders.
Grapevines look very Mediterranean grown over a pergola or draping your gazebo and long, trailing, prickly cane fruit such as blackberries and tayberries take on a new perspective cladding arches or trellis screens. Or you can grow them along chain-link fences where the prickly stems make an effective barrier – with the bonus of berries by the bucketful.
Some soft fruit can even be grown in containers. Cordon-trained redcurrants and standard goosegogs are fine for large tubs, as long as you keep them very well watered in summer.
And blueberries are brilliant for pots as they need lime-free soil – most gardens are nowhere near acid enough for them but a 15in tub of ericaceous compost suits them down to the ground. Strawberries are gems for growing in multistorey strawberry planters or hanging baskets, which make them a good deal easier than usual to protect from birds.
Strawberries are perfect for growing in multi-storey planters or in hanging baskets
If you’re prepared to try novelties, unusual fruit such as Japanese wineberry and worcesterberry are pretty enough to grow in mixed borders while being sufficiently unusual to excite your foodie friends.
Stocking up on soft fruit couldn’t be easier. Garden centres sell a good potted range that can be planted all year round – even when the plants are carrying flowers or fruit. You can also order plants by mail from a specialist nursery.
Soft fruits are hard-working plants that need pampering, so prepare the ground well. Dig out any weeds and work in as much well-rotted organic matter as you can, ideally a barrowload per square metre. Then sprinkle a handful of general purpose organic fertiliser over the ground, rake it in and you’re ready to go.
Take soft fruit out of their pots and plant them without breaking up the root balls any more than you can help. If some root balls are packed with tightly spiralling roots, gently uncoil a few of the looser ones from the base.
Dig a hole about the same size as the original pot and position the plant so the surface of the root ball is flush with the surrounding soil. To finish the job off, firm gently, water well, then mulch all round the plant with an inch of well-rotted compost.
If you’re planting soft fruit in containers, use 15-18in pots and fill them with John Innes potting compost. Use number 3 for most fruit but give the lime-hating blueberries and cranberries ericaceous compost.
There’s no doubt about it, producing a decent crop of soft fruit takes a tad more effort than you would give to flowering shrubs, but the rewards are worth it. Each spring, plants need a good feed and mulch, then throughout the summer you’ll need to keep well on top of the weeding and watering.
If you let soft fruit go short of moisture while they are carrying a crop, they’ll shed the fruit to save themselves. Fruit in pots need regular watering all summer to stop this happening.
Don’t expect much of a crop in the first year – soft fruit needs a while to find its feet. But once the flowers are over and you can see fruit swelling, wait until it’s almost full sized but still grassy green, then cover the plant with netting to protect it from birds. Don’t use light, flimsy nets as they’ll only trap our feathered friends by the feet go for thick heavy-duty types.
And once you see ripening fruit, make a regular date to go fruit picking – it needs doing little and often so the crop doesn’t spoil. If you can’t use it straight away, pop it into the freezer. It will still make smashing pies and puds.
Fruit-loose and fancy free
Good soft crops for small gardens:
Blackberry Fantasia – has heavy crops of huge black fruit that ripen in August and September.
Blackberry Helen – ripens very early (July onwards) with thornless stems.
Tayberry – is a hybrid blackberry with bigger, sweeter fruit ripening in July and August.
Japanese Wineberry – has attractive stems clad in fox-red bristles. The fruit ripens in late August.
Blackcurrant Ben Sarek – has heavy-cropping small bushes with berries that ripen in July.
Jostaberry – is a heavy-cropping cross between gooseberry and blackcurrant. It produces gooseberry-sized, blackcurrant-like fruit on a typical currant plant. No prickles.
Gooseberry Pax – is a good, green, cooking gooseberry with thornless plants.
Gooseberry Whinhams Industry – is a old, thorny variety. The fruit ripens red.
Redcurrant Jonkheer van Tets – this heavy-cropping redcurrant has very large, well-flavoured berries that ripen early before the summer holidays start.
White currant White Versailles – produces sweet, pale amber berries in early July.
Blueberry Top Hat – this compact variety is good for containers. The fruit is ready to pick in August.
Cranberry – has very large red berries that are ready in early autumn. They can be frozen for Christmas .
Grapevine Léon Millot – is a heavy cropping outdoor variety with black grapes.
How to grow Japanese wineberry
No more difficult to grow than raspberries, Ursula Buchan can't understand why this shrub is so uncommon
I first came across the Japanese wineberry in 1974, at Little Haseley in Oxfordshire, the home of the late Nancy Lancaster. A charismatic Virginian, she was a niece of Nancy Astor and part-owner of Colefax & Fowler.
It was my first job and I counted myself fortunate that she was prepared to pay me 50p an hour to work in her fascinating garden. I rather assumed that everyone grew these delicious fruit and have been disappointed to discover they don't.
I don't know why Rubus phoenicolasius should be so uncommon. It is no more difficult to grow than a raspberry, to which it is closely related. What is more, it has something to offer at most seasons of the year. Native to Korea and China as well as Japan, this vigorous deciduous shrub grows to 2.5m or 3m tall.
It has orange-red bristles thick as down on its arching stems and protective calyces. These stems show up well in winter, especially when sunlight strikes them. Just like the raspberry it is biennial that is, the canes grow one year and fruit the next. The emerald-green leaves are up to 18cm long with white felted undersides, and are composed of three, coarsely toothed, rounded, ovate or heart-shaped leaflets.
In early summer the small, star-like, whitish-pink, self-fertile flowers emerge shyly, encased in a calyx - bristly armour made up of five long, triangular bracts. Small, glistening, conical, orange-red fruit follow in early August. These remain almost surrounded by the calyx until they are ripe.
You can eat them straight off the canes or cook them in the same way as raspberries. As Coral Guppy of Kore Wild Fruits Nursery puts it: "The Japanese wineberry nicely bridges the gap between summer and autumn raspberries."
Plant the Japanese wineberry in adequately drained but fertile soil, preferably in a sheltered place. You will get the best fruit against a sunny wall. Water well in summer. You can tie the canes along wires, cutting out those that have fruited and tying in the replacements. Because the stems are vigorous you can pinch them back in spring to encourage branching. In theory, wineberries should be prone to pests and diseases that assail raspberries, but in practice they are rarely troubled. Birds and insects find it difficult to get at the fruits through the calyces.
To increase your stock, bury the cane tips in the soil in late summer. (Japanese wineberry roots so effectively that you must take care to prevent the arching stems of shrubs grown in the open from touching the ground.) Or take hardwood cuttings in late autumn.
The Japanese wineberry is attractive enough to decorate a fence or pergola in the flower garden. In the border it looks good with other summer-flowering shrubs such as Buddleja x weyeriana 'Golden Glow' or 'Sungold', as well as with white-stemmed Rubus cockburnianus in winter. It seems a good choice for an older child's garden because the stems are thick with bristles and not many thorns, and the fruit are sweet.
Otherwise you can grow it in a fruit cage, or train it on horizontal wires to define boundaries or paths in an ornamental kitchen garden.
Kore Wild Fruit Nursery, Warren Fields Farm, Trellech, Monmouth, Gwent NP25 4PQ (01600 860248 www.korewildfruitnursery.co.uk). Mail order only - send an A5 sae for a catalogue.
Agroforestry Research Trust, 46 Hunters Moon, Dartington, Totnes, Devon TQ9 6JT (01803 840776 www.agroforestry.co.uk). Mail order available - please send four 1st-class stamps for a catalogue.
Gardening readers can buy a Rubus phoenicolasius for £8.95 or two for £17.90 and receive a further one free. Order from Telegraph Garden Service, Dept. TL549, 452 Chester Road, Manchester M16 9HL. Cheques/postal orders should be made out to Telegraph Garden Service, or call 0161 848 1106 for credit/debit-card orders, quoting ref. TL549.
Stock is limited, so the offer is available on a strictly first-come first-served basis. Delivery in September. We regret that we are unable to despatch our goods to the Channel Islands or the Republic of Ireland.
Tips & Information about Japanese Wineberry - garden
They may be invasive but wineberries taste waaaay too good to yank up by the roots. Native to Japan, northern China and Korea, wineberries were introduced to North America and Europe in the late 1800s as an ornamental and for the potential to create hybrid raspberries and quickly escaped from cultivation to become a flavorful fugitive.
But I never saw them growing wild here in New York's Hudson Valley until about 15 years ago when a large patch near my family's home in Shokan caught my attention. I'd never seen anything like those jewel-like, red berries. They seemed too dazzling, too showy to be real.
Now I see them everywhere - in the woods around my house, along the side of the road,and in fields. Not so surprising since, like all invasive species, they spread readily -- by seed, by sucker and by rooting the tips of their canes where they touch the ground.
Their flavor is delightful - similar to a raspberry but a little bit tarter and a little bit juicier - somehow it adds up to being even more delicious than a regular raspberry. They are also lightly sticky to the touch, unlike a raspberry's dusky look and feel.
The berries are protected by a hairy, red calyx - a remainder of the flower that blossomed in the spring. As it grows, the calyx opens and peels back until the berry is fully exposed and ready to pick.
There are no poisonous look-alikes in North America, so go ahead and pick some. My advice is to wear long pants and sleeves (there are lots of thorns, ya know), keep an eye out for poison ivy and make sure to check for ticks after you get home.
We went picking yesterday and tramped through tons of poison ivy but it's not a problem - we just stripped down when we got inside, tossed all the clothes in the wash with a generous splash of Tecnu and scrubbed all the skin that'd been exposed with it, too. Between yanking out Japanese barberry (my least favorite invasive), pulling up poison ivy, and picking wineberries, I should really buy stock in Tecnu.
I'd hoped to make something with our small haul (it's really just the beginning of their short season) but ended up giving in to the demands of my hungry children and allowed them to simply devour them on the deck this morning. It was either that or keep tripping over them as they'd been twining themselves around my legs just the way the cat does when I open a can of tuna fish.
But if you get a lot (and/or don't have small children in your house), below are some ideas that you might want to consider. These wild wineberry preserves from Kaela at Local Kitchen have a million yummy uses, this wineberry pie from Abbie at Farmer's Daughter would make a classic dessert, and this wineberry bavarian from 3 Foragers looks really decadent. And, if you imbibe, this wineberry cordial by Ian Knauer on Bon Appetit sounds pretty darn good.