Monday, April 24, 2017

Garden Blackberries. 4.21.17

As a reward to myself for hauling 7 loads of brush to the yard waste recycler / composter, I stopped in Lowes and found these Arapaho blackberry plants on sale half price.

Cultivated blackberry varieties have much better garden characteristics and better flavor, compared to the invasive wild ones.  The plants are much smaller, often thornless, and the berrys sweeter.

Of the varieties that I have tried so far, there hasn't been much chance to evaluate fully.  Last year I bought 6 Prime Ark Freedom® plants, which bear on first year canes as well as second year canes.  Being fully thornless, the deer and rabbits liked them, but the main thing was  the plants did not survive the freeze.  The berries were big juicy berries last year, but only 2 plants survived the winter.  The tops did not survive, so the berries this year will be primocane berries.  Ebony King plants survived the winter and have nice starts of floricanes now, so I'm optimistic to have a taste this year.  The only Columbia Star plant survived, and has starts of floricanes, so again maybe there will be a taste this year.  These Arapaho plants will need a year for evaluation.  Plants from big box store have the advantage of no postage, and you get to inspect the plant, but the disadvantage of limited selection of varieties,and they are often no in great shape.  Shipped plants may also not be in great shape, so I appreciate being able to inspect the store bought plants.  Plus they were on sale.
Ebony King Blackberries, 1 year old.  4.21.17
Of the others, 3 of 3

So of the ones I planted last year, I got a taste of Prime Ark Freedom, they were good but most did not survive the winter.  Ebony King and Columbia Star survived, and we  will see how they do and how they taste, if this year if good.  Ebony King is nearly thornless and needs protection from deer.    Ditto for Columbia Star.  Columbia Star is trailing, so needs support.  I think the same is true for Ebony King, but not Arapaho.   Arapaho is thornless too.
Columbia Star Blackberry, 1 year old.  4.25.17

Prime Ark Freedom Blackberry, 1 year old.  4.25.17
 The new growth on these looks pretty lush.  I think there is promise there for some nice blackberries, at least a taste, in 2017.

(Photos updated 4.25.17 for better pics with more clarity)

Here is some descriptive info about Ebony King.  It's hard to find info about this variety, even though it's on many nursery catalog websites.  The info is from USDA/ARS at Corvallis, website:

"Place of origin and originator unknown. Introd. about 1940 by Krieger's Wholesale Nursery, Bridgman, Mich. Parentage unknown. Fruit: large as Eldorado, which it resembles; skin black, glossy; flavor sweet, tangy, good; ripens early. Bush: upright; hardy; resistant to orange rust"

From various websites, Ebony King is cold tolerant,  disease resistant, vigorous, nearly thornless or reduced amount of thorns.

.This old variety is not patented or trademarked as far as I can tell.  It is way past any possible patent expiration date.

Here is some info about Arapaho.
Summarizing from Edible Landscaping website, "earliest ripening thornless variety... ripens its fruit in a 4 week period...Plant Patent # 8510... thornless, erect, self supporting canes, good fruit quality, earliness of ripening and its ability to establish a full fruiting row quickly. Zone 6-8"

From Texas A and M University website: "released in 1993 by the University of Arkansas, is an erect growing, thornless variety that produces a medium sized, firm, high quality fruit over a four week season. Arapaho is very productive, has no thorns, and is resistant to both Double Blossom and Orange Rust. Arapaho is a lower chill variety suitable for zones 8-9 and above."  So Arapaho looks like a pretty good choice.  According to the US Patent Office, "A plant patent expires 20 years from the filing date of the patent application."  I'm no lawyer but to me that means the patent for Arapaho expired in 2013.

Info about  Prime Ark Freedom®:   Primocane ("Prime"), from University of Arkansas ("Ark") free of thorns ("Freedom?") released in 2013 although I don't have the patent date - I assume this one is patented and therefore can't be reproduced.  I thought this one sounded good because it is primocane as well as floricane bearing, so potentially early and late crops each year.  According to University of Arkansas, "the world’s first primocane-fruiting and thornless commercial blackberry introduction. It is intended primarily as a home garden or local market plant. It has very large fruits with good flavor, and is very early ripening on floricanes, the earliest of all Arkansas blackberry varieties."  Since universities now patent, trademark, and license their releases, I don't have a lot more faith in their release descriptions than I have for commercial nurseries - interesting to read, but they have a profit motive so take with a grain of salt.

Information about Columbia Star Blackberry - this time from Oregon State University - "very high- quality, high-yielding, machine-harvestable,thornless trailing blackberry with firm, sweet fruit that when processed are similar in quality to or better than fruit from the industry standards ‘Marion’ and ‘Black Diamond’."A patent was applied for and granted in 2013 so still under patent #US PP25532 P2 .
Arapaho Blackberry, New Planting.  4.25.17


  1. Congrat on your purchase. I've been berry growing for awhile. But there were times that I was renting a place without backyards and not able to growing any. In such a case, I gave my thornless blackberry to my friend and she grew it as a trained espalier on a wall. The fruit was hanging and such a tall and wonderful plant. Its such a terrific plant that she refused to give me a cutting and also not even let me taste my own fruit! So I bough an Aparapaho and also Ebony King also. It took 3 yrs for the bare rooted plants to produce. The fruit is in big clusters. Now I've suckers that comes up and take over my garden. The fruiting cycles is so prolific that I have fruits almost yr round there's hardly an off season. The plant didn't go to dormancy. The flavor is milder compares to the wild blackberry. I still think the wild berry have an edge on taste but when picking the fruit the thornless just so much easier and produce so much fruit per stem and in big clusters. The one big pest and problem I have with berries is the fly larvae inside the fruit. The only solution seems to be growing them under cloth covers, which is how commercial growers do. I have to freeze the fruit first and kill all the larvaes first then I can eat it or just make jam.

    raspberry loaded with immature fruit
    immature fruit on blackberry

  3. Lance, you're going to have some great berries! Thanks for the photos. I really enjoy looking at them. You have a much longer season than I do. I am hoping that by growing several varieties, I will have a more extended season, time will tell.