I don't know why Rubus phoenicolasius, the Wineberry, should be so uncommon. It is no more difficult to grow than a raspberry, to which it is closely related. What is more, it has something to offer at most seasons of the year. Native to Korea and China as well as Japan, this vigorous deciduous shrub grows to 2.5m or 3m tall.
The species is a perennial plant which bears biennial stems ("canes") from the perennial root system. In its first year, a new stem grows vigorously to its full height of 1-3 m, unbranched, and bearing large pinnate leaves with three or five leaflets; normally it does not produce any flowers. In its second year, the stem does not grow taller, but produces several side shoots, which bear smaller leaves always with three leaflets; the leaves are white underneath.
The flowers are produced in late spring on short, very bristly racemes on the tips of these side shoots, each flower 6–10 mm diameter with five purplish red to pink petals and a bristly calyx. The fruit is orange or red, about 1 cm diameter, edible, produced in summer or early autumn; in botanical terminology, it is not a berry at all, but an aggregate fruit of numerous drupelets around a central core. Ripening occurs from early summer. The canes have fine, red thorns, which appear much like red hair.
In addition to seed propagation, new plants are formed from the tips of existing canes touching the ground. They enjoy moist soil and grow near and within wooded areas.
As a fruit develops, it is surrounded by a protective calyx covered in hairs that exude tiny drops of sticky fluid. The Wineberry has orange-red bristles thick as down on its arching stems and protective calyces. These stems show up well in winter, especially when sunlight strikes them. Just like the raspberry it is biennial; that is, the canes grow one year and fruit the next. The emerald-green leaves are up to 18cm long with white felted undersides, and are composed of three, coarsely toothed, rounded, ovate or heart-shaped leaflets.
In early summer the small, star-like, whitish-pink, self-fertile flowers emerge shyly, encased in a calyx - bristly armour made up of five long, triangular bracts. Small, glistening, conical, orange-red fruit follow in early August. These remain almost surrounded by the calyx until they are ripe. This keeps the berries safe from the birds until they are ready to pick.
You can eat them straight off the canes or cook them in the same way as raspberries. As Coral Guppy of Kore Wild Fruits Nursery puts it: "The Japanese wineberry nicely bridges the gap between summer and autumn raspberries."
Every year I can hardly wait to pop my first wineberry of the season into my mouth. Heavens! How can such a small, tiny ruby-red berry taste so yummy?! This is a berry bush that has excellent potential as a family favorite or as a good seller at farm stands or farmer’s markets. It also can be easily propagated by the farmer or gardener so once you have some growing plants you won’t need to buy more: you can produce as many as you want. This is a good thing since there are only 2 nurseries in America that offer the plants for sale.
Fortunately, the Resilience Research Farm is licensed as a Missouri grower and plants are available from Back40Books.com. The plants are available in two sizes and are dug and shipped as orders arrive so you are insured of fresh, viable stock. The plants are shipped in a soil-less mix in plastic bags. Nursery stock can not be shipped to Massachusetts or Connecticut.
Price minded folks can order 6" well rooted 1st year transplants for $19.95 each or 5 or more for $14.95 each. Price includes priority Shipping anywhere in the U.S.
All plants are shipped with planting, maintenance, and propagation instructions included.TO ORDER ON-LINE CLICK THIS LINK: http://shop.b40gs.com/Wineberry-Plants-Rubus-phoenicolasius-NPSWB.htm?productId=8 Growing tips
Plant the Japanese wineberry in adequately drained but fertile soil, preferably in a sheltered place. You will get the best fruit against a sunny wall. Water well in summer. You can tie the canes along wires, cutting out those that have fruited and tying in the replacements. Because the stems are vigorous you can pinch them back in spring to encourage branching. In theory, wineberries should be prone to pests and diseases that assail raspberries, but in practice they are rarely troubled. Birds and insects find it difficult to get at the fruits through the calyces.Propagation
To increase your stock, bury the cane tips in the soil in late summer. (Japanese wineberry roots so effectively that you must take care to prevent the arching stems of shrubs grown in the open from touching the ground.) Or, you can take hardwood cuttings in late autumn.
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