Berry hybrids can be interesting plant choices to consider. Over the winter months, you might well be thinking about choosing and planting some bare root fruiting canes or fruit bushes in your garden. You might, for example, be thinking about choosing some raspberries, blackberries, gooseberries or currants for your garden.
Growing your own berries is a fantastic way to foray into growing your own without having to grow annual crops and spend a lot of time tending your garden. As perennial plants, fruiting canes and fruit bushes can be great choices for a low-maintenance garden scheme. They’re even easier to grow if you invest in a fruit cage or other structure to keep them secure from birds and other pests.
Fruits like these can be great choices for many gardens, offering a lot of interest and edible yields. But if you are looking for something more unusual, you might like to consider instead these interesting berry hybrids:
1. Tayberry Berry Hybrids
This is a cross between a blackberry and a red raspberry. It is one well known hybrid berry. This was patented in 1979, and is named after the River Tay in Scotland. The fruits are large and sweet, but are not particularly easy to pick and cannot be harvested by machine, so have not become a commercially grown crop. However, as a garden plant, they have become popular. And have gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.
The Tummelberry is another raspberry and blackberry cross, bred in Scotland and similar to the above. This is a relatively new hybrid with large, rounder, juicier berries with a vibrant bright red colour and a deeply intense flavour. Like the Tayberry, they are heavy cropping. And they also have excellent winter hardiness.
The loganberry is a cross between the north American blackberry (Rubus ursinus) and the European red raspberry. The plant and the berries are more like blackberries, but the colour is dark red, more akin to the raspberry. The flavour is half way in between. These were an accident of breeding in 1881 by James Harvey Logan, a Californian judge and horticulturalist, from whom they take their name. They are popular for cultivation both commercially and in gardens. A thornless varietal was developed in 1933.
The boysenberry is a cross amongst the European raspberry, the European blackberry, the American dewberry and the loganberry. The exact origins of this hybrid are unclear, but the most definite records trace it back to grower Rudolph Boysen. Walter Knott was the first to cultivate the deep purplish berries in the 1930s. (Now, there is also another hybrid with marionberry called silvanberry in Australia.) Boysenberries are long-lived perennials that are hardy, cold tolerant and easy to grow.
The marionberry is a blackberry cultivar. It was developed in Oregon. It is a cross between ‘Chehalem’ and ‘Olallie’ varieties and it is the most commonly cultivated form of blackberry. This has big, glossy berries and a somewhat tart flavour, and this particular hybrid has been described as the ‘Cabernet of blackberries’. (As mentioned above, this has also been bred with boysenberries in Australia to make another hybrid, the silvanberry.)
This is a berry similar to the Tayberry – another cross between the raspberry and the blackberry. This is another hybrid option to consider if you are looking to blend the positive characteristics of both of these plants.
The sunberry or wonderberry is a unique hybrid (Solanum burbankii) developed by Luther Burbank in the early 1900s. It is a bushy shrub around 2ft in height that bears hundreds of bluish-black berries in the late summer. Care for the plants is similar to the care of related plants tomatoes and peppers. Though the plant is a member of the nightshade family, which does contain some poisonous plants, the fruits are edible when fully ripe. Though not delicious when raw, the berries are great when sweetened and cooked to make jams, syrups, or other preserves.
8. Japanese Strawberry (Not Truly Berry Hybrids)
The Japanese strawberry (Rubus illecebrosus) is called the ‘strawberry raspberry’. It should be grown like you would a shrub. This is a novelty fruit that can be a lot of fun to grow in your garden. The fruits, which arrive after white flowers in the late summer, are large, bright red, juicy, and sweet flavoured. Though not truly a strawberry raspberry hybrid, the appearance of the ripe fruits makes this theory easy to account for.
9. Ribes x culverwellii Berry Hybrids
These hybrid berries descend from the black currant (Ribes nigrum) and the European gooseberry (R. uva-crispa). It’s latin name is Ribes × culverwellii. Work on this cross was carried out in Yorkshire in 1880, but was nearly sterile. Other later crosses were also sterile, and more work was required to create more viable crosses. But early crosses might still be interesting and unusual options to consider.
10. Jostaberry Berry Hybrids
The similar and better known hybrid berry is the jostaberry. This is a complex cross between the gooseberry (North American and European gooseberries) and the blackcurrant. This turned out to be a more viable cross, which is fertile. Though people often confuse it with the cross mentioned above, the jostaberry is actually an F2 of complex heritage. This was created later in Germany from two first generation crosses.
The chuckleberry is a cross between a redcurrant, a gooseberry and a jostaberry, which is, as mentioned above, itself a complex F2 hybrid plant. The chuckleberry grows like the blackcurrant and produces large yields of sweet and juicy berries that combine the flavours of its parents. It is great for making jams and other preserves.
12. Thornless Youngberry
The youngberry is a complex cross between raspberries, blackberries and dewberries. Byrnes M Young in Louisiana developed this interesting cross using the ‘Phenomenal’ raspberry blackberry hybrid and the Austin-Mayes dewberry. Thornless varietials of this boysenberry-like fruit are now available.
These hybrids are just some of the more interesting and unusual fruit crosses that you could consider for your garden. Hybrids often offer superior quality, performance or taste. And so it makes sense to consider them as alternatives to other commonly grown fruits.
If you have a problem area in your garden. Or have had issues when trying to cultivate common fruiting canes or fruit bushes. Then one of the hybrids mentioned above may perform better for you. In any case, you might like to ring the changes and these hybrids could give you the chance to try something different in your garden.
All these fruits are surprisingly easy for gardeners to grow and to cultivate. And how many wonderful berries they will yield is truly astonishing. Which fruits and berries do you grow in your garden? Have any of the above hybrids found a place in your garden? Have they grown and produced well for you? Let us know in the comments below.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.
To get in touch, visit https://ewspconsultancy.com.