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From wild to tame on the Trials Field at Wisley - training hybrid berries - with Petra Hancock

Posted by Sara Draycott on 10 Dec 2013 at 01:53 PM

Hello – I’m Petra, and this is my first blog for RHS Garden Wisley. Please allow me to introduce myself -  I work as a horticulturalist on the Trials Field, looking after the A3 border as well as a number of trials, such as the hybrid berries and viburnum.

 

Tying in the berries

After a summer of heavy fruiting and rapid, unruly growth the hybrid berries and blackberries have reached a point where they need tying in.

 


Almost all plants in the hybrid berry trial work on a two year growth cycle. In its first year a stem puts on leafy growth and in its second, it fruits; after fruiting it is cut down and the new leafy growth takes over.


As a first year stem is growing it is very flexible and gets long. At this point the stem is loosely tied into the wires to stop it getting broken in the wind and to keep it growing upwards. At the end of its first year (right about now) that stem starts to thicken and at this point it is ready to be tied into the wire. The plants are tied into a fan shape, with the stems bent to the side to encourage fruiting along their length and spread out to allow air and sunlight to get to the fruit and help it to ripen.


There are 54 plants in the hybrid berry trial that need tying in, so this is a pretty big and fiddly job, and I need some help. A chilled December morning last week, a few of my colleagues, a trainee and a volunteer, join me to take on the prickly jungle that the trial has become. All the old fruiting stems had already been cut back down to the ground leaving this years’ stems loosely tied to the wires. First things first, we needed to remove the stems from the wires and disentangle them. This created some leafy chaos, thorns catching on branches entangled in feet. Once done, the wires could be tightened, ready to support the plants.


To tie in the berries, we worked in pairs, with one person wearing gloves and holding the plants, the other with their fingers free to tie the string.  Stems are cut just above a bud in a sloping cut, that way when the bud starts growing it has enough stem left to support it. We completely removed any excess stems.


Because this is a trial, it is important that each plant is tied in a similar manner, but this can seem impossible when each plant looks so different from the next. Some start out distinctly wild, invading the neighbouring plants, putting out many stems, while others are less vigorous, but by the afternoon the row is uniform and sparse.

 

As the sun went down, the cold started to bite, a couple of us kept warm by singing Christmas songs. It was a relief to get the rakes out and warm up a little clearing away the mess.

EXTRAS

 
The stems are tied to the wires in a figure of eight so that the string holds the stem away from the wire and doesn’t rub.

 

There are still a few fruits forming on this year’s growth, but the cold and lack of sun mean that the fruit stay pale and inedible.

Comments

Blackberries… | Parks and Gardens UK said:

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on 17 Oct 2015 at 08:51 AM