Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Moving the marionberries

Marionberries, in case you don't know, are a cross between a Chelelum blackberry and Ollallieberries. Renown for their complex flavor, they are beyond delicious...and as luck would have it, they are exceptionally nutritious too. Click here to read more about them (and see some luscious photos).

For years we have had a small patch of marionberries growing at the back of our raspberry patch. I planted them there because I didn't know any better. I knew I loved eating marionberries and that they cost a fortune in the store. Seriously, half a pint can cost upwards to $4. Unfortunately when I bought the plants, I didn't really understand what growing them would be like. And I REALLY didn't understand what picking them would entail. I should have done more research. These plants are ferocious. Seriously. But, as is often the case with me, I do something first and learn about it second. I think I like to learn from experience. But sometimes, this causes problems. And believe me, our marionberries were a problem last year.

Last year, you could not walk down the aisle to pick them. Last year you couldn't walk by them to get to the rows of raspberries and strawberries behind them. Last year, picking them was a lot like going to the dentist--something I really need to do but never want to.

When I ordered 3 plants 5 years ago from Raintree Nursery I had NO idea they were going to grow into a monstrous hedge of thorns that jealously guarded each and every one of its berries. I didn't know that they would grow in such a way that I would loose serious amounts of skin each and every time I went out to pick these little treasures. What I did know was that I LOVED marionberry pie and that they grew well in this climate.

Once the plants arrived, I naively planted them a tad bit closer than the directions suggested (what's one foot, I thought!). and then we waited for them to grow. The first couple of years they were manageable and we got very few berries... The third year they grew a reasonable number of berries but we hadn't trellised them correctly so many of the berries rotted for lack of air flow.

Last year we figured out how to better use the trellis and suddenly we had oodles of berries. The only problem was we also had oodles of berry plants that were covered in fierce thorns. OUCH. Picking was no fun, just ask cousin Frank who was almost hospitalized for blood loss after he was seen crawling on all fours across the ground and under the mass of plants trying to get to the berries and away from the thorns. Sorry bout that Frank.

Apparently, marionberries follow the old gardening adage for groundcovers...first year they sleep, the second year the creep and the third year they leap. Being this was the fourth year, they had leapt and then some. In four short years they had gone from spindly little plants to a completely unmanageable mess. This year we knew had to do something.

That's why (thanks to the efforts of the mighty man, yet again) we now how an all new, completely separate marionberry hedgerow that is accessible from both sides but has no other plants growing near it that we can't cut back. It's way down in the lower pasture. Steve rebuilt an even better trellis and carefully relocated the entire berry patch out of the raspberries and down to where we HOPE picking them will be much less painful. Who knows, it might discourage trespassers too. I can vouch for the fact that nobody in their right mind is gonna wanna walk through those babies.

Somebody else must not have liked the thorns because Raintree no longer sells marionberries but rather sells a thornless berry they promise tastes the same. I wonder if that's true.

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