I've been working on increasing blackberry stocks the past couple days, taking root cuttings of my two accessions of white blackberry, propigating Siskiyou dewberry, and examining local farms for older type commercial berries as well. Eventually I hope to have enough of all of my favored varieties and unique traited varieties to begin to sell some nursery stock, but it's going to take a year or two.
When I was about seven or eight I remember taking a trip to Greensburg Kentucky for a family reunion (this is where my fathers side of the family is from) and stoping at a great uncles home where there was a wonderful set of blackberry trellis' covered from end to end with the most richly flavored blackberries that I have ever enjoyed in my life. They were absolutely covered with huge and heavy thorns but were loaded to the point of breaking branches and I remember eating so many I very nearly made myself sick, I also remember repaying those berries with much of my own blood due to my eagerness of picking them (nature often demands sacrifices illproportionate to the amount of biomass consumed! Early life lesson). The variety was Lawtons (or New Rochelle, depending on how ethical you are about respecting the real discoverer of the variety) a name that I know and have known because I can very clearly recall the dialoug between my grandparents and a great aunt and uncle. I have carried that name with me from that age until now, always planning to secure stock for said berry at some point in the future, particularly after some of the more pressing needs of the farm were met.
This past week I placed an order for 25 New Rochelle plants from Arkansas berry farm and am anxiously awaiting arrival of the stock to be planted in our cedar trellis system as well as in a side field made up of sub prime soil where they can easilly be controled with the bushhog. I look forward to the day when I can provide myself with the Edenic bliss I experienced that day in Greensburg and I also have plans to begin propigating this variety to make it available to my local bio-region in the near future. The interesting thing about the Lawton is that it is one of the two parents that were involved in the cross made by Luther Burbank which gave rise to the Snowbank/Iceberg lines as well (the other was a second wild sport called Crystal White, even though it's appearance was more of a champaigne color). More than likely I will find this to my aid in procuring larger specimens of my own snowbank fruit via pollination from the Lawton parent.
I've also been evaluating the properties of many blackberries; thornless, thorned, and wild, in order to identify traits which might be used to create new cultivars in the futre, as it stands at the moment a few ounces of seed from various University of Arkansas projects are stratifying in preperation for the 2011 season and I anticipate a great diversity of phenotypes and genotypes with an excellent chance at producing something totally worthwhile. At some point in the future it would be nice to produce some more white and yellow fruited mutants with an emphasis on thornless accessions as well as dewberry type white and yellow accessions, I have the genetic material on hand and am more than ready to devote a number of years to the work of procuring such wonderful oddities if only fate and science will deal me the correct hand to make such miracles into logical realities.
For those interested in learning more about the New Rochelle berry, this is a wonderful resource, it's interesting to read just how excited the advertisers and procurers of this new variety were way back then, of course the New Rochelle was really the first true cultivated and mass grown blackberry variety of any real value:
My good friend Michael Dunn was also kind enough to share with me a variety he aquired from a farm which used to be an orchard. Although we are unaware of the true identity of the variety, it is heavily thorned with very petite leaves and is apparently a heavy bearer of fruit of great quality. The story relayed to Michael has them being plantd back in the 1940's and was planted as a commercial crop. There are very few choices for what it could be but I'll refrain from identifying it just yet at least until it bears fruit.
Even though I have not seen it's fruiting merits just yet, there is something to be said for the germplasm giving the time of year it was dug, coupled with the heat and wind and drought experienced the last few days as well as it's amazing ability to survive being dug out with so little root in tact. Michael had to use a pick axe to even get into the ground to remove the plants and though mine have allowed their leaves to brown after being planted in the trellis system they have already begun to send out new buds. Survivalism is a must for any plant on this farm as has been explained her via the blog the past four years.
More to come in intervening years.