Posts Tagged ‘blackberry primocane’

Nation of Gardeners November planting update: keeping our gardeners busy as autumn slips into winter

December 9th, 2013 | Nation of Gardeners, The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Live plants parcel received November 2013In November, the Nation of Gardeners received their second shipment of plants from Mr Fothergill’s.   As autumn slips into winter, many gardeners believe that their gardens go to sleep, but there’s so much to be done to plan for next year’s flower and soft fruit beds. It’s a perfect time to take stock of the structure of the garden and where there might be gaps that need filling.

Bare root perennials are shipped out at this time of year, and it’s a good time to put in fruit trees, fruit bushes and soft fruit plants too. And so it was a bumper pack of plants that hit the gardener’s doorsteps in early November, with the parcel containing 35 plants to keep our Nation of Gardeners busy.

A round up of November’s plantings

Blackberry Rueben primocan blackberry in Pontypridd

The gardeners received a Blackberry Reuben potted plant – this variety of blackberry is the world’s first primocane and so Mr Fothergill’s wants to really test this plant for performance across the whole of the UK, with especial interest in how this variety performs in more northern territories.

The blackberry plants – such as the one illustrated here newly planted in Pontypridd – was received with instructions for planting in the open ground.

All gardeners reported back that their specimens looked healthy and happy and were quick to establish themselves.  The plants were so happy in their new homes that three gardeners – in Pontypridd, Buckinghamshire and Suffolk  – even reported back that their plants were flowering soon after the plants had become settled.

By early December, most gardeners were reporting that their plants were still looking healthy and green-leafed, with no signs of them obeying the oncoming winter by dropping their leaves.


Strawberry runnersStrawberry runners were also shipped out in November, with 12 each of Strawberry Sweetheart (a June bearer) and Strawberry Buddy (an everbearing variety).

Mr Fothergill’s believes that autumn planting helps strawberries establish quickly and increases the yield for the summer, so how next summer’s crops turn out will be observed closely by the participants.   The gardeners will receive the same varieties again in Spring against which to compare their results.

The plants arrived as bare roots like the ones illustrated here. They arrived with the instructions to plant outside 15″-18″ apart.

The gardeners found a variety of means of planting their strawberries such as in raised beds, patio planters and potato bags.  Again, gardeners reported that the strawberries quickly established themselves with plants looking ‘perky’ only a few days later and definite leaf growth being observed within a couple of weeks.



Bare root perennials are also being grown in this round to test the theory of planting out at this time of year to get a head start on establishing good growth the following year.  Five varieties of bare root perennial plants were selected comprising the following:

Two of each of these plants were received by the gardeners, along with planting instructions to put one in the ground and one in a pot that is to be protected in coldframe or greenhouse.   This should reveal the best method for handling these plants at this time of year, and will give insight into how they perform in the different regions included in the project.

Bare root perennials in the coldframe

Due to the nature of bare root perennials, strong results aren’t expected until the spring, though new leaf growth has been reported by a handful of the gardeners.

In North Devon, Papaver Place Pigalle is looking healthy

Papaver, Sedum and Astrantia all took to their placements well with new leaves emerging for many of the gardeners as the month of November unfolded.  Some gardeners also saw signs of life – or at least signs of a happy healthy plant – in the Eryngiums too. The photo to the right here shows our Devon gardener’s healthy and vigorous growth of her coldframe planted Papaver.

Across the board, the notoriously reluctant Cimicifuga refused to show anyone any sign of life.  This is a plant that takes a few years to properly establish however, and so our gardeners will have to maintain some patience waiting for this variety to show itself in the warmer weather in 2014.

October planting update

The plants grown by the group in October have continued to go from strength to strength.  For many, the garlic is starting to show, having got off to a very slow start during October and November.  There are still some garlic that refuses to show its head from beneath the soil however, so continued cold snaps will eventually show us if this will spurt these plants into life.

Sweet peas in Guildford

Broad beans are now fully established for all gardeners, with some of the gardeners needing to stake their plants due to the height they’ve attained since sowing.  The picture below shows the broad beans in our Cheshire gardener’s plot.  She reports that these plants are doing much better in the open ground than in the pots in the coldframe. Perhaps root constriction is at play here?

Time will tell if the lush growth that many of our more southerly located gardeners are experiencing becomes a disadvantage over the broad beans that have had more moderate levels of growth.  Hardier and more stunted growth may make them more resilient as the weather turns colder.

October plants in early December in Cheshire

Sweet peas – such as the ones the the left above here in our Guildford gardener’s greenhouse – are also doing well for most gardeners, though some participants have lost their sweet peas to hungry wildlife!

The challenge as we go into winter will be to protect these young plants from the cold whilst keeping them hardened off enough to not shoot on ahead prematurely.  This is as much a test of the skills of the gardeners as it is a test of the seeds themselves!


To follow the results of our gardeners in more detail, take a look at our table of stats for each of the varieties:

November 2013’s planting

October 2013’s planting


Looking forward into December

BasilMr Fothergill’s Nation of Gardeners has now entered  its third month, with the gardeners having just received their December package over the weekend.

With all of our gardeners now experiencing their first frosts and the perils of winter weather, the Nation of Gardeners will move indoors for their December trial to partake in windowsill growing of basil, coriander and four varieties of leaves.

Nation of Gardeners results: Blackberry Rueben

December 9th, 2013 | Nation of Gardeners, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Blackberry RuebenBlackberry Rueben is the World’s first primocane blackberry, meaning that it fruits in its first season on the current season’s wood.  The berries are large – some as large as a plum – and are sweet eating with a manageable habit. Blackberry Reuben can be grown against a warm fence, wall or even in a large container on the patio with canes for support.

Our Nation of Gardeners were asked to plant Blackberry Rueben in November 2013 to test whether this variety performs consistently in all areas across the UK and so fruiting in late summer 2014 will be charted following this autumn 2013 planting.  The table below charts their progress.

Location Elevation Date planted Date first signs of growth Notes
Cheshire 49m 12 November 18 November 3 flowers visible and a 3cm growth recorded 30/11/13
Renfrewshire 28m 9 November Planted in large terracotta pot. Plant was destroyed by December storms on 29 December.
North Devon 30-50m 11 November Planted into a pot, with plans to relocate to open ground before end of year
Worcestershire 55m 10 November Planted into shallow raised bed. 17 November: plant looks healthy
Derbyshire 39m 10 November Planted in open bed with ph7
Cumbria 90m 8 November 10 November Planted into open ground, healthy and happy plant 2 days later.
Ceredigion 131m 8 November Planted in open ground in partial sunny position.
Bristol 55m 10 November Planted against a SW facing fence in sheltered position.
Suffolk 6m 10 November Planted against a west facing fence in the veg garden
Hertfordshire 150m 23 November 27 November Planted next to a East facing fence with no added compost or manure
Surrey 58m
Pontypridd 157m 10 November 21 November A flower appeared 21 November
Buckinghamshire 66m 10 November The plant has flowered in November
Guildford 56m
Gloucestershire 74m 7 November 22 November 22 November, starting to show autumn colours
Derbyshire 241m 9 November 16 November Planted into open ground. ph7.5, sunny position. Some buds forming by 16 November but not blooming.  23 December: the stem broken by high winds about two thirds down.  Not sure if enough foliage left for it to survive.  Pruned to below the break leaving 3 tatty leaves.

Nation of Gardeners October planting update: Mr Fothergill’s growing community is growing!

November 15th, 2013 | Nation of Gardeners, The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

The Nation of Gardeners project is now in full swing with our regional gardeners having received their first parcel in October to the unanimous delight of the selected participants.

First Mr Fothergill's parcel of seeds in October

In this welcome pack, everyone received the seeds and bulbs they were tasked with growing over the coming months, but there were plenty of goodies in the pack too to help start people on their gardening journey.

Enthusiastic amateur gardeners have been selected from around the country, growing in gardens and allotments, on patios and in greenhouses. They are distributed across England, Scotland and Wales and range from almost sea-level gardens to the highest which is at an elevation of over 240m above sea level.  It is hoped that this broad spectrum of growing conditions will test the chosen seeds, plants and bulbs for surety of results across the UK.

The selected gardeners for the Nation of Gardeners project post their findings as they happen on Facebook and Twitter.    Members post ‘breaking news’ from their region to report growth and share information on the successes of others’ seeds.

On Facebook, the gardeners compare techniques offering each other advice, discuss their gardening ‘roots’ and backgrounds and have co-ordinated planting dates to be able to sow in unison.  The Nation of Gardeners has also become a real-time weather forecast system with the gardeners posting weather warnings to let us others know as bad weather makes its way across the country. This definitely came in use, particularly to our gardeners in the south of country, when St Jude’s storm hit towards the end of October.

Most importantly, our Nation of Gardeners is reporting back with progress of how their first batch of seeds is getting on.  Regular photo updates go out on social media to report real-time progress.  To follow the gardeners on Twitter, use the hashtag #nationofgardeners, or go along to the Mr Fothergill’s Facebook page and ‘like’ it to see postings by members on the wall there.

Here’s a round up of findings from the October plantings so far.

broad bean aguadulceDistributed in October were Broad Bean Aguadulce, which is a hardy variety.  A fresh batch of the same seed will be sent out in spring for fresh sowings to test autumn versus spring sowings on this plant.

Autumn sown plants are supposed to crop earlier than their spring sown counterparts, but they are also more difficult to care for and need protection from frosts, wind and damage from heavy rain and snowfall.

From a mainly mid-month sowing, the broad beans breaking through largely coincided with storms hitting the country, but the Nation of Gardeners’ plantings all survived and a strong germination rate for broad beans has been seen across the UK with the small plants growing sturdily and with a consistent surety of results.  The broad bean seen here is in our Pontypridd gardener’s plot.  By early November, many gardeners, particularly those at lower levels are reporting lots of energetic growth, to the extent that they are considering staking the plants to support them.

Sweet peas germinating in root trainers

Two varieties of sweet pea were also sent out. Sweet Pea Sir Henry Cecil which is a variety exclusive to Mr Fothergill’s and is named in honour of Sir Henry Cecil the champion racehorse trainer; and  Sweet Pea Old Spice Mixed.

Germination was reported within a week of sowing in many places and with the Old Spice Mixed variety taking a slight lead on germination rates and speed of growth.  Members of the group came forwards with a variety of methods of sowing sweet peas, including soaking in cold, lukewarm or boiled water as well as just leaving it to nature.  Pots were also sown in either pots with 5 seeds per pot, or in root trainers like the ones illustrated here. Again, by early November, some members are considering pinching out the tops to strengthen the plants for the coming winter months.

And finally, Garlic Solent Wight was included in the October pack.  The garlic so far has been the slowest plant to emerge after being put in the ground across the UK during mid-October.  Gardeners  in Buckinghamshire and Pontypridd reported seeing roots growing on cloves that had been pulled up by birds, but for most regarding garlic, there was nothing to report.   The first sign of any growth in the garlic to be reported was in Suffolk – a promising swelling of the cloves 11 days after planting – but it was in Bristol on 30 October 18 days after planting that the first shoot was seen.

To follow the results of our gardeners in more detail, take a look at our table of stats for each of the varieties:


Looking forward into November

The November parcels have now also been issued and include the following bare root perennials and strawberries:

Also a blackberry variety – Blackberry Reuben – was sent out.  This variety is the World’s first primocane blackberry and so has been sent out to trial fruiting results in the late summer/early autumn of 2014.

composition of bare root perennials for nation of gardeners