Voted Off Blackberry Island

It’s a rare day indeed when I dig up a live, producing plant to replace it with another one. It’s even rarer for me to dig up FIVE of them! But that’s what just happened today here at HA.


Arapaho plant with healthy crown and roots (click on any photo to enlarge)

The Arapaho blackberry got voted off the island by the Management Team (aka my wife and I). I guess you could say it was no match for its neighbor and cousin Apache. The Arapaho was smaller, less productive, and not really all that tasty to us, so it is OUTTA HERE! Whew. I hate having to do that to any plant. At least they weren’t too hard to dig up.


Apache blackberries

The Apache berries have proven to be some of the biggest and best tasting thornless blackberries I’ve ever grown, and I’ve grown a lot of different varieties over the years. It has become the standard by which we judge other blackberries.


Apache plants are upright and don't need trellising

We also grow the Triple Crown variety here, and though the berries aren’t as big as Apache’s, it has a taste that rivals it, plus the big, sprawling plants yield a lot of berries.

Blackberries are a big deal here. They are the easiest to grow and most productive berry here in our part of the world. These relatively new varieties are very hardy, and pests and diseases are rarely a problem. And last year we harvested a whopping 61 pounds of them from our 3 year old plantings. That works out to somewhere between 10-12 gallons of them. When the plants hit their peak in a few years the yield should be even higher.


this Ouachita plant is budded out and ready to grow

The new varieties I planted today are Ouachita and Natchez. These are Arkansas developed varieties like Navajo, Apache and Arapaho. The Natchez fruit is supposed to be as big as Apache, though not quite as sweet. The Ouachita compares favorably with Apache in taste, but isn’t as large.


the Natchez plants needed protection from hungry deer

The Ouachita were bare root whips, and the Natchez came as potted tissue culture plants. I ordered both from the nearby Indiana Berry. I put some fencing around the Natchez as I thought they looked too much like ‘deer candy’ to leave them uncovered. We’ll give them the best of care, and see how they shape up next to our other varieties. Our overall blackberry production will take a hit for a year or two, but we’ve got plenty in the freezer and if these new ones work out well, it will all be worth it a few years down the road.

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23 Responses to Voted Off Blackberry Island

  1. Robin says:

    I didn’t realize that you were such a blackberry expert. I will take lots of pictures of my blackberries and hopefully you can help me identify them.

    Did you make any blackberry jam with all those blackberries last year?

    • Villager says:

      We didn’t make one batch of jam in 2010! We do have some in the freezer though. I wouldn’t call myself an expert, but I’d be glad to help you ID your berries. You’ll have to do the taste tests though! 😉

  2. The only blackberries here are the wild invasive Himalayans that run amok in our woodland, and are almost exclusively consumed by the deer. I did grow a thornless blackberry in England, but I seem to recall that its yield was abysmal, especially compared to the wild brambles that would grow in the roadside. Your Apaches though look like monsters, but the plants seem very well behaved. We’ve planted Ollalieberries this year, but I’d be curious to try something like your Apache in the future. I hope your new varieties can successfully compete with it!

  3. meemsnyc says:

    Wowsers, the Apache berries are monsters! I’ll have to get one of those plants! I love blackberries. They are delicious. We have one plant, it’s a Navajo. We planted it last year and it’s still small. Probably won’t fruit for us for awhile.

  4. Thomas says:

    Thanks for the info! I love when other gardeners post plant reviews. We have one wild raspberry bush in our yard. The fruit is tasty but the thorns are awful! Maybe one day we’ll invest in one of these beauties.

  5. Holy moses – those Apache berries in enormous! They look absolutely delicious. Can’t believe you got 61 pounds out of them last year – incredible! That’s a heck of a lot of pie. 😉

  6. LynnS says:

    I am still in awe of those Apache berries. What a fantastic harvest you had. I hope you have more this year!

  7. Daphne Gould says:

    I’ve pulled producing plants up before. Grapes. I just wasn’t eating them anymore and wanted something else. I guess my tastes have changed.

  8. LynnS says:

    Dave, I was so tempted by the Apache blackberries that I have one plant being shipped now. I just can’t stop drooling over that picture you tease us with! lol

  9. chris grow says:

    In your opinion, which blackberries have the smallest seeds? I have a wife that doesn’t care for the seeds and therefore doesn’t care for blackberries, but my kids and I love them and would like to get her on board.

    • Dave says:

      Most of the thornless blackberries have fairly large seeds. You might consider a thorny variety is you are looking for smaller seeds.

  10. Karina L says:

    I just planted 6 Thornless Triple Crown. I’m hoping the berries will be big and taste great. They are about 12″ tall already. About 12″ of mulch around them. I have a cattle fence as a trellis. Will that be ok?

    • Dave says:

      The cattle fence should work ok for a trellis. Though I grow Triple Crown without any trellis, and they stay mostly upright just fine.

  11. Matthew Priem says:

    My Apache blackberry plant grew about 18-24 inches high and then curved down to the ground. All the daughter plants do the same. They’re not just floppy; they actually want to grow horizontally. Must be some trailing variety in their lineage. I’m not sure yet if I’ll dig them up or give them a year to fruit and see how it works (I spent the first two years concentrating on plant production more than berry production).

    • Dave says:

      Matthew, my Apache plants did that the first couple of years, but then they grew thicker stems and stayed more upright. It is possible that yours will straighten up with time, but only time will tell.

  12. Jérôme says:


    I am a french reader of your website and I want to plant one Apache blackberry in my garden. I have red that Apache variety can produces a lot of suckers and can be invasive. Can you confirm this problem and suckers are easily removable ?
    Thank you very much for your answer.


    • Dave says:

      Hi Jerome,

      I have been growing Apache for at least ten years now, and I have not had any problems with it producing a lot of suckers. It has been well-behaved in my garden, and it has not spread out of the area it was planted in.

  13. Jérôme says:

    Thank you very much for your answer.
    My Apache plant will be plant in area : 50 cm x 50 cm in my grass area. Do you think that the suckers will be grown in my grass ?

    • Dave says:

      I think 50cmx50cm is plenty of room for one Apache. Any suckers I get come up very close to the original planting. Also, the suckers are easy to pull up if the plant gets too big. I hope they grow well for you!

  14. Jérôme says:

    Dave, thank you very much for your piece of advice. I’ve planted one blackcurrant “chereshneva” but my childrens don’t like this fruit. I’ll remove it and plant my Apache in the same place.
    See you soon.

  15. Blue says:

    Hello, it’s been 3 years, came across your blog. Thought I’d share some updates info. Most of the blackberry breeding programs were at U A. And they were phenomenal. But the criteria for z good berry has changed. Today it’s a about can it be easily mechanucslly harvested.. is it disease resistant will people like the taste..
    Up till a few years ago, the highest in brix (the sugar count) was the Navaho. Its upright, easy to grow, not prone to disease and was the sweetest. But it has small berries and not a large producer. Osage, has topped this. And finally SweetiePie tills them all with a brix of over 13, thornless, tasty and easy care, easy pick. You may want to update your garden to include one of these. Thank you for your post!

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