Chester’s pregnant! After 22 months in the ground, my Chester dwarf blackberry is producing small pink flowers and baby berries. I spotted this hardy, thornless darling at the Labor Day sale at Fort Collins Nursery in September 2017, bought it, and promptly stuck it in the ground. Chester didn’t produce any berries during the summer of 2018. But this year, he looks very promising.
Chester (Rubus fruticosus ‘Chester’) reportedly grows three to five feet high and wide. Mine has reached five feet high by two feet wide, growing on a trellis. However, I’ve pruned the tallest canes back to three feet.
Although Chester is a perennial, his canes are biennial. For best performance, stake the canes.
According to the Missouri Botanical Garden, you should tip-prune new non-fruiting canes on established plants in the summer. Then immediately after harvest, cut down all canes that fruited. Finally, in late winter or early spring, prune away damaged canes and thin your way down to four or five well-spaced canes, trimming their laterals.
I should mention that it’s advisable to seal the tips of your pruned canes with carpenter’s wood glue to discourage borers.
I also note that one respected Denver garden center claims that Chester doesn’t play well with others. He’s surrounded by strawberries, Swiss chard, cucumbers and zucchini in my berry/vegetable patch. I’ll see what happens. If he misbehaves, I’ll relocate him for a time out.
Chester isn’t my only berry provider. I also grow the strawberries mentioned earlier—both June-bearing and ever-bearing. My June bearer produced fruit through early July. Now the ever-bearers are picking up the slack, generating white blooms that will soon turn into even more berries.
My June bearer is Honeoye, and my ever bearers are Ogallala, Quinalt, and Fort Laramie.
I like strawberries not only for their fruit, but because they make such lush, perky groundcovers.
Then there are the serviceberries from my regent and autumn brilliance varieties. Yes, serviceberries are edible by humans. They taste somewhat like blueberries and are great for snacking, mixing with other fruits, or tossing into salads.
Some gardeners avoid growing berries because birds eat so much of the fruit. I’ve been picking my strawberries and serviceberries before they’re fully ripe and taking them inside to ripen. I may have to do the same with the blackberries. Or eventually I may have to break down and install bird netting.
If you have children or grandchildren, be aware that a berry patch can occupy them for hours and provide treasured memories.
Fortunately for us here in Colorado, we have one of the best climates in the country for growing berries. Just don’t plant blueberries—they like acidic soil. We have alkaline.