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July 1st 2009

    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.

   They looked in 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.

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