Nothing is more vengeful
than a blackberry plant on a sunny afternoon. Better not to wear
shorts and elegant footwear. And for those with poor eyes best to take
the glasses along.
In Oxfordshire England, I once worked in a
garden that had thorn-less blackberry. Their owner had told me she had acquired
an understanding of this particular blackberry while in Canada where her
blackberry jam had a wonderful reputation amongst her friends. She was therefore the
expert. Her thorn-less blackberries in Oxfordshire, apparently, had had insufficient sun
to produce, which was why she wanted me to relocate them.
every respect exactly like the familiar blackberry plant. Their leaves
were larger. Their canes a bluer green. But without thorns I reckoned, their
placid and foreign appearance concealed a flawed character.
I mentioned my concern to the garden's owner. Her reaction was to
describe the peaceful nature of the Canadian flora. "In
Canada," she informed me, "Blackberries don't need
thorns." Which surprised me because I had always thought Canada
was a land of snow and ice, dangerous bears and deranged moose. A
land where thorns should be expected.
Relocating plants is dubious work.
Failure and death is so often a possibility. Generally the gardener
will consult the literature, discern guidelines, discover which time of year
is best before commencing.
However, the rule for a seasoned jobbing
gardener is to put the procedure off for just as long as possible.
Then, if it appears as though the job might go to someone else, shrug as
Pontius Pilate might have done whenever he was surrounded by Pharisees.
This way blame lies elsewhere.
Inordinate and unnatural
discussion, effort, and expense went into moving those three thorn-less
blackberry plants. The new bed was poised and fertile. I had a
watering can. No possible excuse for failure, so when the transplants
shriveled and died, I put the straw in my mouth and I called them
homesick, yearning for the tundra. It was too hot, too wet, too
cold. They were lonely in a land of the thorny blackberry. A
simple truth for so many transplants. And the garden owner, to my
great surprise agreed with me, because she too wanted to go home to Canada.
Tomorrow when I venture toward blackberry
territory, I'll vouchsafe cursing, I'll follow the rules. I'll wear
the trousers and socks, the sensible shoes, the long sleeves and sun hat,
the eyeglasses. Make a fine spectacle of myself as an armored knight
amongst ripening berries. But if it's just about jam I will find
myself wondering about the thorn-less blackberry. Maybe a row of them
along the fence by the compost pile.