All of Anna’s favorite fruit
Raspberries are my favorite fruit. Yes, I know I told you cherries were my favorite fruit but that was when the cherries were in season and now the raspberries are ripening …It was so refreshing and satisfying to be picking raspberries in the cool early morning air left by the big thunderstorm and good rain Basalt had Wednesday night. Did you get it at your house too? The berry bushes were wet and the retaining wall timbers were soaked and slick under my rubber-soled shoes. The old dead canes caught at my sleeves but my arms were well protected. What old dead canes? How come there are old dead canes? Rubus idaeus, the most luscious member of the rose family, is interesting, for like all brambles, it has biennial stems but perennial roots. The canes (stems) of the single-crop or summer-bearers fruit only once, in their second year, while the everbearers fruit in the fall of their first year and a second time the following summer. But all the bearing canes change color and become brittle and lifeless at the end of two years. My pruning regimen is simple. No complicated rules. After the leaves and shoots sprout, I cut out all the dead stuff.My method cuts down on winterkill too. Years ago, while taking care of someone else’s raspberry patch, I discovered that the tops of live canes are killed back by our dry cold and if I tidied them up in Aspen as early as I learned to do in my mother’s garden in south Ontario, more and more of the stem would die back from subsequent frosts and there would be fewer berries as a result. I originally experimented with both everbearing and summer-bearing raspberry varieties. Those that survived the first winter slowly took hold, though the promise of the everbearers was never fulfilled because frost always shriveled the developing berries before they could ripen. There are grand claims that newer tested varieties like “Caroline.” have higher amounts of nutrients and antioxidants but I am happy with the flavor and texture of my unknown old varieties and their habit of fruiting simultaneously on the first year canes from this spring and the two year olds from last spring.There are dead canes because I never got around to cleaning up the raspberries at all this year. There was always something more pressing to do, or I was lazy, until the old canes were engulfed by thick new growth. Apart from checking the irrigation spray heads, the bushes were untouched until, on July 5, I spotted the first thrilling red berries. And no I didn’t eat all of them – I saved at least three for Gerry. A week later, I was picking a small bowlful for the kitchen every other day.The raspberry “patch” is actually a series of stacked, staggered box beds that function as a retaining wall for my steep driveway and must be climbed to pick the fruit, a slippery treasure hunt. My raspberries stayed put for years, one variety per planter. But while the canes continue to remain in one place their whole life, the roots get around. They have happily and thoroughly mingled and are now sending up scouts in the neighboring planters of perennial flowers. Sturdy, healthy shoots pop up among the peonies and under the apple tree. Usually I pull them right away, sometimes unwisely impatient without gloves, but some escaped my notice this year and have fat, juicy berries under the foliage.Without any pruning whatsoever, I have a very good crop of raspberries. The old canes even support the heavy headed fruiting canes and keep them from flopping.Maybe I will risk the perennials and let the invaders stay until next year and see what happens. Berries in the peonies might benefit from the shade. Canes are sturdier and bigger away from the original raspberry beds. The dark green, crinkly leaves backed by silver with red-flushed margins handsomely fill voids left by withering Narcissus while sheared Nepeta recovers and nasturtiums fill out. Would the raspberries crowd out the peonies, lilies, and valerian or can they co-exist? Can I have my fruit and flowers too? I’m going to rethink the raspberries.Tomorrow I will have a lovely breakfast, a handful of freshly picked red raspberries with shredded wheat and skim milk. I shall eat my fill every day for another week before they start tapering off. By then the apricots and peaches will be coming on.Anna begs her husband Gerry for compost to feed her raspberries in Basalt. She’d love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com Please put “Anna’s Garden” in the e-mail subject line.Anna begs her husband Gerry for compost to feed her raspberries in Basalt. She’d love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com Please put “Anna’s Garden” in the e-mail subject line.
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