Blackberry Varieties

There are several key differences between blackberry bush varieties and they can be summed up as follows:

  • When they crop – early, mid or late season,
  • Suitability for cooking, eating raw or both
  • Size of the berries and vigour of the bush
  • Disease resistance

The reviews below are in alphabetic order. All of the varieties are fully self fertile and do not require pollination by other blackberry plants. Read also the comments left by others which can be found at the end of this article, some very good observations have been made.


Although this variety has many good points, it will grow at an alarming rate when established. It then becomes difficult to prune and control. Very few companies supply this variety for that reason. We would not recommend it.


Very large fruits are produced in mid July time for four weeks. Raised in America.

Black Butte is a floricane variety (produces fruit on last year’s stems). It has lots of thorns at harvest time which is mid season. The plant grows to a medium size. We re commend planting them at 1.8m / 6ft apart.

Black Butte is primarily a cooking variety with a Brix level of around 7 but can be eaten raw when the fruit is fully ripe. Expect a below average harvest of 3kg maximum.

Unless you appreciate the very size of the berries we see little merit in this variety. It is however excellent for the show bench at your local show.


Chester was bred in the University of Maryland’s Cherry Hill research station and is one of the more modern varieties. It is very well suited to UK conditions.

Chester  is a floricane variety (produces fruit on last year’s stems). It has very few thorns at harvest time which is mid to late season, late July to early August. Cropping time is from late July to November, the first frost is the only limiting factor. The fruits are easy to pick.

It has one of the longest cropping periods of all blackberry varieties. The plant grows to a very large  size. We recommend planting them at 2.8m / 9ft apart. The blossoms are beautiful, large and light pink. The leaves are a deep green. It is best grown in semi-shade.

Chester can be used equally well for eating and cooking. It has a Brix level of around 11 which makes it one of the sweetest varieties. Crops produced from an established plant are high, expect around 13kg of fruit per plant, much higher than average.

Disease resistance and hardiness is excellent. We recommend this variety highly if you have the space.


Bred by Dr. Derek Jennings at the Scottish Crop Research Institute (now the James Hutton Institute) in Dundee. One of the parents is Silvan.

Helen  is a floricane variety (produces fruit on last year’s stems). It has no thorns at harvest time which is early to mid season. Cropping time is from mid July to mid September. The plant grows to a medium size. We recommend planting them at 1.8m / 6ft apart.

Helen is primarily a cooking variety with a Brix level of around 6, too acidic for eating straight off the bush. Expect a below average harvest of 3kg to 4kg, with fruits slightly larger than normal. Flavour when cooked is very good although sugar needs to be added.

There are no known disease problems with this variety and we would recommend it.


Very large fruits are produced in mid July time for up to six weeks. Raised in New Zealand by Harvey Hall as part of the HortResearch breeding programme. HortResearch is now part of the New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research.

Karaka Black is a floricane variety (produces fruit on last year’s stems). It has less than average thorns at harvest time which is mid season. The plant grows to a small size, well suited to small gardens. We recommend planting them at 1.2m / 4ft apart.

Karaka Black is a multi-purpose variety with a Brix level of around 11 and can be eaten raw when the fruit is fully ripe. Expect an average harvest of 5kg maximum. The berries are easy to harvest and they store better than most varieties. Cropping time is from mid July for six weeks, longer than average.

The flavour is very good, often compared to “real blackberry” flavour.

When the RHS trialed this variety all the plants suffered from Phytophthora (root rot) and fireblight. The trial seemed to suffer from more than the average amount of diseases so it’s not clear if Karaka Black is prone to disease or caught it from nearby plants. One of the diseases encountered was Honey Fungus which is spreads very easily.

There have been no other reports of poor disease resistance.


Originally given an Award of Garden Merit (AGM) by the RHS in 1993, this was again confirmed in 2016. Raised by Dr. Derek Jennings at the Scottish Crop Research Institute (now the James Hutton Institute) in Dundee.

Loch Ness is a floricane variety (produces fruit on last year’s stems). It has very few thorns at harvest time which is mid to late in the season. Well suited to smaller gardens because it is compact and does not spread. We recommend planting them 1m / 3ft apart.

Flowers are normally produced in early May (depending on weather). Fruit production is unusually long starting in early August and can last into early November. Loch Ness is primarily a cooking variety with a Brix level of around 7 but can be eaten raw when the fruit is fully ripe. Expect a 10kg harvest from a mature plant with individual fruits being slightly larger than average.

This is the most popular variety of blackberry in the UK and we highly recommend it.


Given an Award of Garden Merit (AGM) by the RHS in 2015. Raised at the Scottish Crop Research Institute (now the James Hutton Institute) in Dundee. One of the parents of Loch Tay is Loch Ness.

Loch Tay is a floricane variety (produces fruit on last year’s stems). It has very few thorns at harvest time which is mid to late in the season. Well suited to smaller and medium sized gardens because it has a medium growth rate. We recommend planting them 1.2m / 4ft apart.

Flowers are normally produced in early May (depending on weather). Fruit production is slightly longer than average starting in late July and finishing in early September. Loch Tay is both an eating and cooking variety with a Brix level of about 10. Expect a 9kg harvest from a mature plant with individual fruits being smaller than average.


Although this variety has many good points, it will grow at an alarming rate when established. It then becomes difficult to prune and control. Very few companies supply this variety for that reason. We would not recommend it.

The original Navaho variety produces a decent crop of fruit but far better are the two hybrids Navaho BigandEarly and Navaho Summerlong. Both of those produce variable results when grown in the UK and we personally would go for Navaho Summerlong – details below relate to that variety.

Navaho Summerlong is a floricane variety (produces fruit on last year’s stems). This is an upright growing variety which is only available from Lubera.

Fruit production begins mid to late July and lasts well into September. Expect a crop of 10kg from an established plant. Berries are average sized and sweeter than average with a Brix level of about 10 when fully ripe. They can also be used for cooking and jam making with excellent results.

At harvest time this variety is spineless which makes picking and pruning an easy task. The fruits are dark and shiny and held away from the foliage. The flowers are a delight. Slightly pink at first but opening up to pure white.

One disadvantage of Navaho Summerlong is that it will throw up suckers over 1m from the crown so you need to be ready to cut those down as soon as they appear. Without this regular pruning the plant can spread a large distance over a couple of years.

There are no known disease problems with this variety and we would highly recommend it.


Raised at the USDA-ARS Corvallis, Oregon by Dr. Chad Finn, first released in 2005. This one of the earliest varieties of all, beginning to produce fruit from early July (well before wild blackberries) and lasting to late August.

Obsidian is a floricane variety (produces fruit on last year’s stems). It has lots thorns at harvest time. It is a fairly strong grower and reliable as well. We recommend planting them 2m / 6′ 6″t apart.

Flowers are normally produced in early May (depending on weather). Obsidian is both an eating (only pick when fully mature) and cooking variety with a Brix level of about 9 to 10. Fruit is very tasty and full of flavour. Expect a 7kg harvest from a mature plant but this is particularly variable with this variety.

We recommend this variety, the fruits are particularly black, glossy and very easy to pick.


One of the very few varieties which is a primocane (produces fruit on this year’s growth). Reuben was raised at the University of Kansas.

Reuben has lots of thorns at harvest time which is late in the season.

Flowers are produced later than average, normally June time. Fruit production is very low (around 1kg), it does seem that this variety is not suited to the UK climate. What fruit is produced is for cooking purposes only with a Brix level of about 7.

We would not recommend this variety for the UK.


Only a few companies supply this variety now. It was given an Award of Garden Merit (AGM) in 1994 but that was later withdrawn. This is an American variety dating back to 1952, with the final selection being made by The Department of Agriculture in Victoria in 1984.

Although relatively good in its day, Silvan is now outclassed by more recent introductions. It does well on clay soils, produces large but rather tasteless berries on very thorny branches. Difficult to pick.


Date: 03 April 2021 From: M.Davison
COMMENT: I’ve come to the conclusion that Oregon Thornless and Thornless Evergreen blackberry plants are not the same cultivar after growing both. The Oregon has small fruits and ripens end of Aug onwards, whilst the Thornless Evergreen is mid Aug onwards or even sooner with much larger fruits and more attractive pinkish flowers.

I have never seen thorny suckers from the Thornless Evergreen in 10 years of growing it, but the Oregon became a thorny mess after just a few years from planting, so I had it removed. I don’t know why these are referred to as the same plant? So confusing!


Date: 16 March 2021 From: Kurt
COMMENT: Some info I’d like to share after being involved in growing blackberries commercially for many years is there is a wide difference in cultivars. We usually use a specially selected form of a cultivar.

One form of Black Satin or Chester may give larger fruit, fruit earlier than another of the same named plant elsewhere and be more adaptable in terms of vigor. Merton Thornless has a few different selections giving bigger fruit or ripening earlier. These selections are rarely if ever seen or sold to the public.


Date: 24 February 2021 From: R. Hird
COMMENT: Loch Ness must be the most successful introduction of recent years, but has a few drawbacks, one of them being phytophtora root rot and mildew. It is quite prone to both as are many cultivars. Chester is said to be very prone, but I can’t say I’ve seen a lot in it. Chester’s main drawback is about half of its huge crop fails to ripen in our climate.

This can be said of many of the older cultivars and even newer ones which must be grown under tunnels to ripen evenly. Blackberry Helen is diseases prone and suffers badly in frosts. The newer Navaho crosses are so so good but tend to lose vigor and need to be replaced after 7/8 years.

A trailing type can be a much better option for the home garden e.g Adrienne, excepting Waldo as it is very virus prone. Karaka Black in some European trials showed erratic yields, but has proved hardy to -24 celsius, but is too thorny. There is no ideal cultivar!

Thorny Fantasia(a natural cross of Merton thornless x wild Himalayan?) is a great allotment type or a vandal proof barrier. You will pick a huge crop. 50 pounds or more is not uncommonly seen in our allotment.

My garden has the Merton type still happily growing which was planted 40 years ago as a tip layered plant from original stock. A delightful plant to grow with highly insect attractive flowers!


Date: 14 February 2021 From: Anon
COMMENT: The flavour of the thornless cultivars will always disappoint those who went ‘brambling’ as kids, myself included. The fun of finding an old branch to pin back the thorns and get that elusive big berry at the top was second to none.

I now grow Karaka black, a very hardy and disease resistant plant. The flavour is exceptional when ripe and far exceeds the thornless acidic taste. Thorny, but easy to pick from and its flowers are a pretty white. However despite its manageability it suckers underground especially in good soil, but more free plants!


Date: 11 February 2021 From: L. Mitchell
COMMENT: Plant breeding development ended in 1982 at the John Innes Institute, but it is relevant from all the people still growing its cultivars today. Link below shows the actual timeline of the now named JI Centre first blackberry plant releases. centre/


Date: 9 February 2021 From: Anon
COMMENT: For me the factors for growing a fruit plant should be 1. Suitability for the climate. 2. Disease resistance. 3.Time of fruiting- earlier the better.

Other consideration will always be cost etc, but that will always be the 1st priority for some and the old adage buy cheap pay twice is so true, when I consider those cheap poundshop purchases which all came to nothing. But you can be lucky sometimes as I was with a blackberry Waldo which is a wonderful cropper of great tasting fruits!


Date: 4 February 2021 From: G. Park
COMMENT: I found the birds generally leave nearly all the thornless blackberries well alone and go for the thorny types, but year in year out we have had to net our thorny blackberry plants (grown only for cooking with apple) of John Innes together Merton Thornless, otherwise they’d be no fruits left. They must love the acidic taste as we do.


Date: 25 January 2021 From: R. Peters
COMMENT: Merton Thornless is still commercially grown in Iran and around the Caspian Sea region as it is highly adaptable, despite being a mid to late ripener in colder Western climes. These warmer regions barely get 200 to 600 chill hours where Winters are usually very warm and things like pomegranates are grown widely.

Later flowering or fruit ripening does not always signify a high chill hour requirement in some rubus cultivars as it can depend more on GDH(growth degree hours) based on heat to break endormancy- bud, and Merton has plenty(18,900+) hence it thrives in these hotter places whilst having a lower chill need than most e.g Chester etc.


Date: 13 January 2021 From: Laurence
COMMENT: What I like about the thornless blackberries is though they arguably may lack the real taste of the hedgerow type they don’t have the need to be soaked in salty water to get rid of unwanted insects inside the fruits as is often seen after a great day brambling.Also quite a few of the thornless cultivars share the disease and virus resistance nature of the wilder types and are never bothered by them one bit – Merton Thornless and Thornfree (both used for cooking rather than fresh eating!) being prime examples which even after being drenched in persistent heavy rain on poorly drained sites, causing canes and roots to rot have always bounced back to produce healthy new growth in the garden in early March as in last year. Very hard to kill plants!


Date: 14 November 2020 From: Larry
COMMENT: Living in Canada the conditions for fruit growing can be harsh. Many of the so called hardy thornless blackberries just perish in our severe winters. Only one to date and it is an old British variety has survived all including disease, yet only deemed as moderately hardy- Merton Thornless. Its roots extend many feet deep as it is wide so that could be its secret to longevity which is 40 years now in my garden!


Date: 05 September 2020 From: Not Given
COMMENT: The older blackberry cultivars are the most disease and weather resistant. The newer thornless ones in my trials all have succumbed to rot despite good soil drainage. Merton Thornless has survived everything in my garden and keeps bouncing back each year to give a great crop of juicy blackberries mid Aug. Oregon Thornless is similar, but the fruits are quite smaller.


Date: 26 July 2020 From: Not Given
COMMENT: You might want to be careful with Oregon Thornless as it will prolifically self seed everywhere due to birds spreading it or ripe berries dropping off. If left to grow, thorny blackberries sprout all over the garden and establish. Reason I avoid growing it as I consider it weedlike.


Date: 30 June 2020 From: Mrs W
COMMENT: Thornless Evergreen is a wonderfully ornamental plant grown on a trellis with very pretty pink/white flowers in July and large fruits of 3 to 5.5g in late August. You have to make sure it retains its thornless form by cutting out any stray thorny sucker from the roots, because if you let them grow the plant reverts to a vigorous thorny mess like a briar and fruits are much smaller.


Date: 23 June 2020 From: Not Given
COMMENT: Oregon Thornless or Thornless Evergreen gives big crops each year of medium sized firm fruits from mid Aug until Oct. Being a natural occurring form of the invasive cut leaf evergreen blackberry or Rubus laciniatus, it retains its thornlessness in the outer layer only, so take care not to damage its roots and remove any thorny suckers you see. There seems to be widespread variability in sold forms of Thornless Evergreen regarding fruit size, flower colour etc.

The Everthornless clone of it(retains thornlessness from its roots!) has never gained wide popularity outside of commercial plantings other than Oregon U.S as it is prone to rust and is rarely offered publicly; plus it retains thorns on the bottom two feet of the plant! Some Thornless Evergreen variations sold could be this Everthornless type crept into the mix by mistake. But to most the Thornless Evergreen is still superior for the amateur fruit grower.

Highly recommended for its attractive appearance. Great for growing in a big container and very hardy. Relatively cheap and easy to find too in most garden centres.


Date: 5 June 2020 From: D. Baxter
COMMENT: There is so much variation in Rubus and even between named cultivars that one cannot rely solely on plant descriptions pertaining to flower colour. Soil pH can change it too.


Date: 29 May 2020 From: Danny
COMMENT: The Blackberry Hull is a fine addition to the garden and worth tracking down. I was lucky enough to be given a commercially selected plant of Hull 15 years ago by a professional grower.

A much improved version of the stalwart Black Satin, being sweeter with firmer fuits and comparable to Chester thornless. The yield is double that of most thornless varieties and equals Chester’s most years. Disease resistance is high. Season late July until end of Oct. Its flowers are mauve to pink turning white, unlike Chester’s which remain mauve.


Date: 01 May 2020 From: R. H.
COMMENT: I have two 8 year old plantings of Navaho Summerlong & Bigandearly in excellent fertile soil enriched each year. The Summerlong is very stunted in growth and cane output compared to earlier years. The Bigandearly is slightly better, but the crown is woody and new cane production was low last year. Both have petered out. Only my blackberry Chester is unchanged in terms of vigor, health, disease resistance etc after 15 years from initial planting.


Date: 21 April 2020 From: G. Shaw
COMMENT: Blackberry John Innes has superb tasting fruit, but is far too late to ripen in Sept. Fantasia said to be a cross between Himalayan Giant and Merton Thornless has excellent tasting fruit too. Both of these cultivars have vicious thorns, but crop heavily. Fifty pounds per plant is not uncommon. Best for the allotment!

Also with the notable climate change in the last decade some late fruit ripeners are becoming much earlier. The still popular Merton Thornless is now consistently early/mid Aug whereas before it used to be very late August ripening in my garden. I don’t rate many of the newer thornless types as they lack vigor and the fruits are bland tasting though yields are not bad as in Loch Ness.


Date: 10 April 2020 From: B.Matheson
COMMENT: Avoiding growing the blackberry Natchez is a wise choice. I grew it both in a barrel and the garden for 2 years from established plant sources in a trial. The fruit quality was very bland and erratically sized. The berries had an insipid watery taste to them.

Both plantings fizzled out. The one in a huge barrel was pot bound within 18 months, putting out no new growth nor canes. The other in a selected part of the garden just put out leaf growth and stopped flowering as its runners spread underground at an undesirable rate like Asterina. Needless to say it was removed. None of these newer releases from the U.S are suited to the UK.

Now my Chester plant has no such problems and is highly recommended if you have space – under a sheltered area it will fruit late July or mid Aug out in the open. Waldo gives superb quality fruit, but is Calico virus prone and is brittle to grow. Few blackberries are ideally suited to container growing. Blackberry Helen, N.Bigandearly or Merton Thornless are the best choices for this!


Date: 29 March 2020 From: Fred
COMMENT:I purchased the modern blackberry Navaho Summerlong early last year after grubbing out all my other thornless blackberries which ripened in late Aug.

The large white flowers were pretty to see and a bee magnet. It proved to be an excellent cropper of sweet firm berries of a good size in mid July onwards. It put out 3 more canes in mid summer. Now it is growing nicely with lots of shoots opening on the canes. Expecting a big crop of blackberries!


Date: 16 March 2020 From: Cora
COMMENT: Don’t waste your time and money with these pot/dwarf blackberries or raspberries like Shortcake as I did in the past. They either don’t flower or the crop is too light to justify ever being called a worthy fruit plant.

I got myself a Navaho Summerlong blackberry after reading about it here. What a great plant with pretty flowers. It set loads of medium sized sweet fruit last year. Seeds are tiny! It set more than my Loch Tay.


Date: 14 March 2020 From: Pete
COMMENT: The taste of these hybrid berries is very much depending on the individual. The Silvanberry as described here is bland to me anyway, but to others a fine taste, so  much the thorns don’t bother them. All personal preference

I find blackberry Thornfree has a fine flavour as Merton, but concensus is both too acidic, yet many rave on how good Loganberry is which is sharp tasting!


Date: 13 March 2020 From: Stan
COMMENT: Agree there, Merton Thornless has quite large seeds and needs a good soil to crop and taste well. Navaho types have very tiny seeds and dont need good soil to crop well. Navaho cultivars taste superior to most blackberries because of high brix. Bigandearly is excellent allrounder or Summerlong.


Date: 28 February 2020 From: Berry
COMMENT: I have tried many of the above varieties over many years in an attempt to find one with a good wild flavour. Merton thornless has a fairly good flavour but hard pips and the various new and supermarket varieties are not very flavoursome. For me, the older very thorny Silvanberry is still the tastiest.


Date: 31 August 2019 From: K. Rice
COMMENT: We bought a Navaho BigandEarly last year online. This year it has cropped really well from the last week in July until end of August giving big blackberries. There are still loads of undeveloped green fruits on its stems, but with the heavy showers and lack of sun unlikely to ever ripen in this very wet Aug month.


Date: 11 August 2019 From: Derek
COMMENT: I have six blackberry cultivars growing in the garden and only one cultivar’s berries, because they are super firm avoided grey mould, rot, and bleeding, due to the exceptional rain we are having in August in the Uk. It is Navaho BigandEarly. The ones whose blackberry fruits are looking the worse for wear are Chester Thornless (a surprise since many American journals praise how its fruits are the firmest of all!), Navaho Summerlong(a mouldy crop!, Merton Thornless (this is the worst affected!) Black Satin, Adrienne and Waldo


Date: 14 June 2019 From: Richard
COMMENT: The Navaho Summerlong may well be one of the earliest fruiting blackberries due to its flowering pattern. It flowers mid May to Mid June. Barely 4 weeks or so. The fruits set well and are quick forming for a late July or earlier ripening. Ideal season and good yields.

The Navaho Early has a better flower display, but is more erratic in ripening evenly. More disease prone too and its vigor declines after only a few years.

Sequestered iron in the soil solves the chlorosis, but if it persists you may have nematodes in the soil or virus borne RBDV (raspberry bush dwarf virus transmitted by aphids/pollen etc) which is making a comeback in the UK and Navaho original can be quite prone along with orange rust, but rare.

If you have a thornless plant which has lasted 10 years then you’ve been lucky as most fizzle out before then and decline quickly in vigor.

Raspberries are the same after 8 years. Best to replace both after this period of time and don’t plant in the same area. I’ve yet to see a healthy thornless planting of blackberry other than Chester(mine is 15 years going strong) which last the course in our climate!


Date: 7 June 2019 From: R. L.
COMMENT: Merton Thornless is rather unique in that it is totally thornless and will never produce suckers nor its cuttings revert to thorns. It is very hardy and a good grower with moderate vigor – great for a large tub. The plant perse is highly self fertile, but its seeds are mostly sterile(won’t produce fruits if grown from them), so don’t sow them.

It will never suffer from frost as it flowers June onwards and has a relatively compact season of usually Mid Aug to end of Sept. I’ve picked crops of over 10 pounds in some years. It needs a good fertilizer to produce new canes, but even if it produces only one it will still load up with juicy fruit which are about as close to the wild taste as you will ever get.

Merton is only used for breeding new cultivars because of its stable thornless trait and its fruit went out of favour for U.S markets as they are quite soft so didnt ship too well. A true heritage plant from the famous John Innes Institute.

It is a superb cultivar for the home garden and unaffected by pests or disease still makes it a great choice for planting.


Date: 5 June 2019 From: Fred
COMMENT: This site correctly states about the newer Navaho cultivars producing “variable results when grown in the UK.” I’ve never had more than 2kg of fruit off the Navaho Bigandearly, it’s more late than its description states and whether it’s chlorosis or not after a couple of seasons has become a very sickly grower, due to being an aphid magnet or disease. Its counterpart Summerlong is looking the same for this year and the yield was erratic last year.

Maybe it is my heavy clay soil? I guess some aphid borne transmitted virus could be a cause as the newer canes in both appear stunted and spindly. Navaho I read is prone to raspberry bush dwarf virus, but aren’t they all?. Also some canes have snapped off from the base. I’ve never seen these problems with an old plantings (15 years!) of Merton Thornless and John Innes in a different part of my garden but not that far away. I can’t recommend Navaho plants for the long term and will grub them out in Autumn.


Date: 5 June 2019 From: Fred
COMMENT: This site correctly states about the newer Navaho cultivars producing “variable results when grown in the UK.” I’ve never had more than 2kg of fruit off the Navaho Bigandearly, it’s more late than its description states and whether it’s chlorosis or not after a couple of seasons has become a very sickly grower, due to being an aphid magnet or disease. Its counterpart Summerlong is looking the same for this year and the yield was erratic last year.

Maybe it is my heavy clay soil? I guess some aphid borne transmitted virus could be a cause as the newer canes in both appear stunted and spindly. Navaho I read is prone to raspberry bush dwarf virus, but aren’t they all?. Also some canes have snapped off from the base. I’ve never seen these problems with an old plantings (15 years!) of Merton Thornless and John Innes in a different part of my garden but not that far away. I can’t recommend Navaho plants for the long term and will grub them out in Autumn.


Date: 26 May 2019 From: N. Clegg
COMMENT: I’ve trialed a lot of thornless blackberry cultivars and the best/most promising is the Navaho Summerlong as stated on this great site which knows its stuff.

The Summerlong is superior to the other Navaho types which I found to be quite late in ripening, prone to chlorosis, and flowers can be damaged by heavy showers or fail to open due to aborted pollination. Both the Navahos Bigandearly/Original can suffer badly from white drupelets from sun scorch. The canes in Bigandearly can break off from the base easily whilst the original suckers all over the place. Only ever seen this brittleness in Waldo previously.

The blackberry Navaho Summerlong suffers none of these problems(apart from the odd white druplet now and again which happens in just a few early ripening berries after rain shower then a sunny period.

It is very disease resistant and is the most compact season ripening blackberry I’ve ever seen- mid July to mid Sept or sooner and it is done whatever weather conditions. Best I’ve seen to date.


Date: 24 May 2019 From: Eric
COMMENT: This site certainly knows its blackberries. The daddy of them all must be Chester Thornless. Wonderful tasting fruit, lovely pink flowers. This plant certainly lives up to its hype.

A big plant with vigor that never ceases even in old plantings and potentially it can give crops of over 20kg, if you let it grow to its full potential.

Crops late July until early frosts under an open car port frame. Unmatched and probably still the no1 commercial plant in the world due to its hardiness and disease resistance!


Date: 18 May 2019 From: D. Green
COMMENT: I’m glad I found this site for the excellent recommendations of newer blackberry cultivars. The only ones you see in most garden centres or big shops are Thornfree, thornless Evergreen etc. All too late ripening in some areas of Britain and not sweet fruits.

I’ve grown reliable Merton Thornless for over two decades as it is great for blackberry and apple pie, but not fresh eating unless you get the hot summer. Time for a newer earlier fruiting desert cultivar. I will maybe go for an early fruiting blackberry Helen.


Date: 12 February 2019 From: R.T.
COMMENT: All great recommendations here on this fine site. I would also recommend the Medana Tayberry a hybrid between a blackberry and raspberry for good yields of 5kg or more. Thornless Loganberry proved poor for me and was replaced by this Medana. You can pick up the generic tayberry in any of those poundshops, but mostly it will grow into a raspberry and not be true to type. Buy cheap, spend twice as they say.


Date: 28 October 2018 From: S. W.
COMMENT: Blackberry Driscoll is part of some commercial venture by said company to produce huge berries for the supermarket e.g. strawberries etc. Finding a source will be hard due to its patent.

There’s another type called blackberry Black Jack with huge fruit being trialed with chill hours of 500. Tested in parts of Spain. Google it as there’s a pdf on it.

Other newer types like Navaho The Big Easy look promising. You might like Navaho Bigandearly (trialed well in UK) which is sweet when ripe with tiny seeds but has a juicy flavour. Karaka Black has a lovely taste too.


Date: 25 October 2018 From: Michael D
COMMENT: I have just found out about and tasted Driscoll’s Victoria – so sweet. Does anyone know if there is a source of these canes / plants?

REPLY: This is my understanding of Driscoll’s Victoria. Firstly, there is no variety “Driscoll’s Victoria”, that is just a marketing name. Second, no one sells canes of Driscoll’s Victoria because they are patented, or whatever the term is. Thirdly, they are massively fussy plants and need to be grown under glass in very controlled conditions.

I would imagine that lots of chemicals are used to produce the blackberries and certainly would avoid them like the plague as both a shop bought and a garden variety. Others may have different opinions.


Date: 14 October 2018 From: Jeffrey
COMMENT: We have 2 Reuben plants, now in their second year. We live in North Yorkshire and the plants are at the top end of our South-facing garden, protected from the north by our greenhouses.

Early this year I cut down the first year’s canes. Growth of new canes, 5 on each plant has been very vigorous, with lots of flowers. Fruit set well, but late, and is now only ripening in mid October. Fortunately the Autumn has been mild so far so we are gathering a little fruit, (HUGE, sweet and flavourful) but most is still green and will inevitably be cut off by the first sharp frost.

I did double dig the narrow, long beds, incorporating a lot of well rooted compost and manure into the clay soil. In future years I think I will drop fleece screens from the eaves of the greenhouses to extend the ripening period.


Date: 14 October 2018 From: Valerie
QUESTION: Hi everybody, I have bought a blackberry called Waldo, has anyone any information on its preferences, flavour or Brix level?


Date: 14 October 2018 From: Harvey
COMMENT: Just wanted to agree about the variety REUBEN, have tried for three years and had very little fruit and although sweet it’s taste is bland.


Date: 5 October 2018 From: K.T
COMMENT: For me fruit taste/quality always come first rather than amount of yield, because even a thornless plant may give you a couple of high quality kg of fruit in a bad year unlike those wild thorny hedgerow types which spread everywhere, but yield loads, with lots of tiny maggots in the fruit from blue bottle flies, necessitating a good soaking in salt water before eating fresh or cooking.

You never have these problems with most modern thornless blackberries and the fruit can arguably taste much superior to wild forms and be disease free, if good virus free stock is purchased.

I don’t care for Merton Thornless as it tends to be sour and seedy plus mostly late. Chester is late as well, but tastes great. Where I am late season blackberries will never ripen a full crop-about a third is lost due to lack of sun, so as a rule after mid Sept I chop the plants down. I’ve had great success with Navaho and it is easy to root a new plant from a stem cutting or from its roots. The new Navaho cross is called The Big Easy by the way.


Date: 21 September 2018 From: Ron
COMMENT: I’ve been growing N.BigandEarly for 8 years and the N.Summerlong for 6 years. Approx 2 to 3 kg yields in both. I prefer the Bigandearly as the other has much smaller berries, but a more plentiful yield, if you allow its occasional suckering to take spread. In that case you will exceed 3kg. Both are good however.

There’s also a new hybrid by the same company called Navaho Easy which boasts of huge aromatic berries mid July 50% bigger than the Bigandearly’s already large fruit. Perhaps this great site may test it out later or some other blackberry enthusiast?


Date: 9 September 2018 From: Jed
COMMENT: Finished my 3 year trial of Navaho BigandEarly and is a very disease resistant compact growing plant. 1st year establishing- no crop of course; 2nd year 1.82kg of quality fruit; this year picked 450 fruits, discarded 50 late Aug as no chance of ripening. A few early ripening ones were lost to hungry birds in July.


Most ripened from mid July to mid Aug with final small batch into Sept first week. Final weight was 2.5kg from two canes, with the plant putting out four more new canes for next year. Average fruit weight of 100 fruits was 625g as well as total yield so a very uniform plant overall. Some fruits weighing 7.5g. Fruit is very firm and juicy with small seeds. Pleasantly mildly sweet when fully ripe.

Great garden plant much better than blackberry Helen which is too acidic and disease prone. This Navaho has some ornamental value as the flowers are a pretty rose pink and the plant is very stout and upright. It survived some poorly drained soil in my garden  without problems. Verdict: ideal plant.


Date: 28 August 2018 From: Allan
COMMENT: It’s a nice plant to grow Navaho Bigandearly. My daughter bought me one a few years back after retiring. About 75% of its very big fruits ripen anytime from mid July to late July in a fairly concentrated period of 3 to 4 weeks.

If you are lucky to get the sun the rest will ripen mid August to mid Sept otherwise its best to chop the plant down like other thornless types as the fruit never ripen. Yields are moderate 4 to 6 pounds per plant on two canes usually, but are very firm fruits resistant to mould and pesky flies. Good to grow in a large container as I do and easy to tend.


Date: 19 August 2018 From: Phil
COMMENT: In RHS trials Asterina (hybrid cross of Loch Ness x Chester thornless) was the heaviest cropping blackberry, but as this knowledgeable site writes not one for the garden. I found it to be mid/late August ripening in the UK and the taste very sour. The foliage growth rate is troublesome!


I viewed blackberry Chester on the show bench in a trial exhibition and that one is totally thornless with excellent tasting fruit as well as fruiting in late July onwards. A manageable plant, if you reduce its canes to two or three.

Commercially Chester is unmatched as a blackberry plant and is still no1 for commercial growers. Forgot the others like Merton thornless, Black Satin which are acidic and prone to mould. Only Navaho is as popular as Chester and recommended for quality as much as a good yield.

The newer types like Natchez, Ouachita, etc. are too insipid for me with a watery taste. Primocane blackberries (double cropping) are a waste of time here.


Date: 9 August 2018 From: Fred
COMMENT: I might try another blackberry one day, but for me blackberry Chester is the best – none matches it for production or disease resistance. Find the space for it you won’t be disappointed. The fruit taste is deliciously sweet when ripe and the blackberries very large. You will be picking them virtually every day from Aug until end of Oct. Incredible plant and its flowers are a pretty pink which the bees adore.


Date: 6 August 2018 From: J. C
COMMENT: I’ll share my growing observations of a few new blackberry cultivars I’m trialing – some already recommended here.

This glorious weather has given us a bumper crop after an abysmally harsh Winter and poor Spring. The Navaho BigandEarly set hundreds of very big ripe blackberries from mid July- half of its crop by the end of the month- weighing in at a total of 3 pounds.

The Chester started ripening early August, but the surprise blackberry was the Merton Thornless ripening late July(22nd) a month earlier than usual and giving a delicious crop. The blackberry Adrienne’s fruit like the Karaka black was prone to going mouldy in the heat and odd shower, the Chester too after heavy rains and if not picked at the right time. The Merton and N.Early types are very firm and good for juicing as well as general purposes as they seem to hold up well in any condition.

For the UK I would definitely recommend N.Bigandearly (white druplets on a few berries due to sun scorching!) with the Merton Thornless. And the blackberry Chester plant, if you have the space to grow it!


Date: 18 July 2018 From: P Dickinson
COMMENT: Thanks to gardenfocused’s great recommendations, I purchased big established plants of both the Navahos Bigandearly and Summerlong. I’ve been picking juicy blackberries as July 15th from each one.

The Bigandearly started flowering pink flowers the end of May, but the Summerlong had started mid May with its pure white flowers, yet both are ripening same time due to this hot heat wave. The Bigandearly has huge juicy oblong like blackberries, the other smaller. We weighed them and they were averaging 8g.

All look fruits look similar sized on its canes with well three or four hundred more to pick at a good guess. The Summerlong has mostly averaged sized round ones- weighing 5g with some bigger ones of oblong shape. Both are sweet tasting with a nice fruity aroma. I replaced my Black Satin and Oregon Thornless with these two and never regretted.

If you want only one then the Bigandearly is the one to go for as its fruits are uniformly big and it is a compact plant. I’d to net it as the thrushes love the big attractive fruit as well. My soil is very heavy and stony, but these compact plants love it. Thanks again to this site for the info!


Date: 14 July 2018 From: Ronny
COMMENT: I noticed a few problems with any of the newer Navaho blackberry crosses, most notably white drupelets and canes easily breaking off from the base or crown. These problems are quite evident in Navaho Bigandearly, and to a lesser degree in the Summerlong cultivar. The original Navaho suffers very little from these issues apart from orange rust.


Date: 02 July 2018 From: Alison
COMMENT: Realistically, if any blackberry is giving you 4 or 5 pounds a year of good fruit in Aug to Sept you’ve done okay. Most of the big croppers like Chester give a huge yield over 3 months+ and the fruit is not great, small, acidic and wasted as it they don’t ripen evenly. Only the first fruits are worth eating fresh.


Date: 01 July 2018 From: B Greenway
COMMENT: Blackberry Asterina is a sprawling mess once established. The foliage growth rate is incredible making pruning tedious. The oblong fruits are very sour in taste as leaves shield them from the sun.

I bought a Navaho Early for the back wall instead. Very compact, strong and upright, minimal pruning and has nice pinkish white flowers. Yields are lowish 2 to 3 kg, but no hard work picking and it survives all conditions. Ideal for lazy gardeners like me.


Date: 21 June 2018 From: F Murray
COMMENT: The comments here are very interesting, especially on the Navaho Summerlong which for the last two years hasn’t suckered at all in my fruit plot. In the first couple of years in its establishment it did quite prolifically as I’d bought an established plant, but now it is ‘behaving.’ A bit strange!

I wonder if I might have caused the suckering by damaging its roots when I was weeding around it the 1st season of planting? It doesn’t do it now and thankfully just put canes out from the centre. Blackberries are beginning to ripen now and should be ready mid July.


Date: 10 June 2018 From: G
COMMENT: I’ll have to differ on the blackberries Navaho Bigandearly and Summerlong, as I’ve good experiences overall growing these two. Only problem encountered is white triplets on some berries in early summer from strong sunlight or whatever causes it?

Both are good growers with attractive flowers and give fair yields. I prefer the Bigandearly because it grows anywhere and has nice very large pink flowers in June, and compact too, so won’t take over your space. Yields are not great, about 5 pounds per plant, but produces huge blackberries so well worth it. It is okay to grow in a 30 litre tub as I do.

The Summerlong does better in the garden and give considerable yields up to and over 10 pounds per bush, but requires good nutrition and more maintenance than Bigandearly which is far less fussier to soil conditions or your neglect.


Date: 16 May 2018 From: Bernie
COMMENT: The newer Navaho cultivars are iffy in the UK as mentioned. BigandEarly was very low yielding(1.5 kg for me) and prone to virus/disease in my 5 year trials. N.  \ summerlong quickly declined in vigor after a few seasons, despite good nutrition- I think its suckering severely weakened the plant. Navaho original is orange rust prone. All grubbed out!

I see Merton Thornless is being recommended still. There’s much better out there. That one is far too late ripening and the fruit quality is acid to fair.

I’ve now chosen to grow a thornless boysenberry as the flavor is renowned, but hardiness/yields may be later issues? I’d grown Medana Tayberry, but the fruit was far too mushy for me.


Date: 27 April 2018 From: C. Rogerson
COMMENT: I’m not surprised that blackberry Merton Thornless is still popular in the UK. It fell out of favour with U.S commercial growers due to hardiness issues and soft fruit, but now is primarily used for its source of thornlessness in blackberry breeding.

It’s a delightful plant to grow, has a wonderful taste when ripe of the wild blackberry and can fruit anytime from early August onwards in a good summer giving a season of 6 weeks. Yields are moderate- about 3kg on average. It’s okay to grow in a patio container and it gives a nice display of white flowers June.

Also it is very forgiving of any soil type and immensely disease resistant with good winter hardiness of minus 20 Celsius. Recommended for those with little space as the canes are short and stout and have moderate vigor. Pests tend leave it alone too! Ideal for both the novice gardener or expert alike.


Date: 26 April 2018 From: Liam
COMMENT: Very interesting observations! I’ve grown loads of plants over the years and Merton Thornless is not far off the real blackberry taste we can all remember brambling as kids. Most of cultivars old(except Chester) or new are either acid or just insipid. No blackberry wow factor. As you can guess I only grow the two mentioned, as I’ve the space. The Merton is a delight as it is so compact and pretty in flower like the Chester. What is the best early one out there without thorns? Blackberry Helen died out on me in an old trial and was very acidic.


Date: 20 April 2018 From: Dee
COMMENT: Nice comments about blackberries! My fave is Chester. The only complaint is that quite a bit of its huge yield(20kg is not unheard of!) never ripens in our climate. That said I’ve even eaten a punnet of its sweet classic tasting blackberries in early Nov in a sheltered location weather permitting. You need the room for this plant. There aren’t many blackberries which can match this one. No1 choice if you have the space. Black Satin is good too and can match the production of Chester.


Date: 8 April 2018 From: Adam
COMMENT: So true! My Navaho Summerlong suckered loads last year, but due to work I wasn’t around for gardening duties. Cut a long story short after checking now I found every one of them had rotted over this awful Winter we’d had. The crown/plant is intact and looking very healthy with new canes sprouting. No problem there.


Date: 16 March 2018 From: Ian H
COMMENT: No need to worry too much about suckers spreading from Navaho Summerlong and taking over the garden. They’re very easy to cut out in summer and ones you miss just die off in winter. Chances of this plant spreading a lot is minimal. I’ve never had a problem with this totally thornless plant and would say it is a great choice for a garden blackberry.


Date: 28 January 2018 From: Bernie R.
COMMENT: Blackberry plants are so diverse and variable that choosing can be difficult, so thanks to this site. Most people end up buying Black Satin or the popular parsley leaf Thornless Evergreen- whatever is out there, but are the specialized ones worth it? Certainly are flavourwise! I would caution anyone buying a primocane type as they will not succeed in the U.K.

Those Navaho cultivars needs good soil nutrition to maintain a high yield, but don’t they all? Plus aphid pests leave the Summerlong type well alone, but the other Big & Early can be plagued by them as its leaves are huge and juicy to the critters! I still have a Black Satin bought from a poundshop over a decade ago and find it more disease resistance/vigorous even with neglect than Chester or any blackberry which I’d grown. The yield is huge, flowers a pretty pink white hue. Fruit so so unless very ripe, but tasty enough.

I would still recommend Black Satin for any soil type (however it may not be sourced correctly in some places as my neighbour bought one and it sprouted big thorns, so pot luck!) as it ripens late July until Oct and that newer one Navaho Summerlong for a compact 5 or 6 week ripening mid July until early/Mid Sep. Cheers!


Date: 18 January 2018 From: Sara
QUESTION: How long can a cultivated blackberry live for? I know our local wild ones have been here for many decades.
ANSWER: Many factors affect the life expectancy of a cultivated blackberry. The normal expected period for cropping well is about 12 to 15 years. After that, the bush may well be alive but its cropping ability will decrease.


Date: 17 January 2018 From: Rita
COMMENT: There’s a rare pink flowering form of blackberry Lochness with supposedly the same attributes called ‘Veronique’. Also the brix of Lochness can be much higher if grown in less acidic soil, but its low vigor is a drawback in any soil type.


Date: 15 January 2018 From: Frank
COMMENT: It’s is rewarding to know details about any fruit plant you wish to grow, but I’ve yet to find a cultivated blackberry which matches the true flavour of a wild type. Perhaps the wiry Ashton Cross comes close, but it isn’t thornless unfortunately and the fruit is small.

I’ve grown all the Navaho forms over the years. The original is far too late to ripen in the UK. The BigandEarly is easy to recommend for the garden as it is an exceptionally hardy, rose pink flowering plant which is unusual in that it’s not phased by cold whatsoever and appears to still grow during winter when one would assume it should be dormant. In pure wet clay it thrives as well without any root rot as its roots are very fibrous.

I’ve never seen this growth pattern in the plant Summerlong or in other blackberries. I pick about 2 or 3kg a year of huge tasty berries. The only drawback I encountered with any Navaho plant is white druplets at the start of the season. Sunscorch or insects, who knows?


Date: 13 January 2018 From: Karen
COMMENT: My grandparents used to have a pick your own blackberry farm and swore by Blackberry Chester. Loch Ness has replaced it mostly as it yields better quality fruit. In Europe Asterina which is a Chester & Lochness hybrid cross is popular in PYO places. But too large of a plant for small gardens.

The new Navaho are crosses with Lochness as well. Both are very suitable for the amateur gardener as they ripen fairly evenly, but Summer long is the superior. Root rot is a risk in any young plant of blackberry, but when a plant is established the risk is quite low. Our N. Summerlong has been with us for 5 years in a heavy soil growing well without any disease and we second this site’s blackberry recommendations. The sparse suckers tend to rot over winter in any case.


Date: 10 January 2018 From: Bill
COMMENT: This site’s recommendations on blackberry cultivars are both objective and informative to read for any gardener alike. I will add that the newer Navaho cultivars are both Navaho x Loch Ness crosses so you get the best of both worlds: excellent 10%+ brix with berry firmness/size without rot or mould issues as you see in older cultivars.


Date: 10 January 2018 From: J. Wilson
COMMENT: Being retired I’ve had a bit of time to try out new cultivars over the years, so I’ll put my ten pennyworth in about a few I’ve grown.

Blackberry Chester can be prone to root rot in heavy soils, but thrives in it nonetheless. Hull is better in regards to adaptation and yields a much sweeter earlier berry, but again  half of its yield like Chester fails to ripen fully in our climate.

Black Satin is too acid as is Thornfree. Those are good for culinary purposes only. Merton Thornless another I grew is a heavy cropper, but rather late to ripen in Aug and loses much of its crop to rot or red berries due to lack of sun hours as the season ends.

The newer Navahos are good. The original is rust prone however, but I haven’t seen it in the newer types. BigandEarly has large beautiful pink flowers and large fruity oblong berries. Low yielding about 2.5kg, but adapts very well to heavy soils and has excellent disease resistance. It never suckers! Late to ripen from late July to August and can continue well into Sept.

Summerlong is similar though 7 to 10 days earlier ripening of smaller uniform sweeter berries borne on attractive white flowers. Yield can be high 4 to 8kg or higher, if allowed to spread. Young plants can die to root rot, hence those suckering roots tend not to survive a bad winter due to weak, rather sparse growth of low vigor. Karaka Black is virus prone and its yield declines after a few years. Oregon Thornless is reliable, but late ripening of bland tiny berries and it suckers thorny canes in time. Loch Ness is good for cooking, but the berry is grassy tasting as is Loch Tay’s. Double pink flowering Loch Maree is disease prone.

The others you mention Asterina, Natchez etc are sprawling growers. Natchez suffers from a poor leaf to cane ratio if left unpruned and over crops which completely weakens the plant for subsequent seasons. Osage is a much better blackberry or Ouachita, but too vigorous for the home garden. Commercial growers prefer these types. Reuben is a complete failure in the U.K.

My recommendations are Hull Blackberry or Loch Ness and both of the newer Navaho  cultivars for the home garden, especially the Bigandearly for a large patio container due to its aesthetic nature and strong uprightness.


Date: 09 January 2018 From: Trevor
COMMENT: Excellent observations on the BlackBerry cultivars. I would add the blackberry Hull to your list, earlier than Chester and with the same attributes, but more disease resistance.

The newer Navaho types Summerlong and Bigandearly (no way early fruiting!) are quite variable according to many, but you are correct in saying Summerlong is the better apart from the suckering. The suckers are quite spindly and easily removed mind you.

Blackberry Karaka Black is disease prone and needs good soil maintenance to achieve a good yield. I noticed a lot of root rot in heavy soil and aphid attacks were very persistent. Thanks.


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