Goseberry Variety Captivator

By David Marks

Picking and pruning gooseberries is a task which many gardeners don’t look forward to because of the vicious thorns so commonly found on most varieties. Captivator is different though, by the time harvest and pruning comes round there are hardly any thorns on this variety.

This is a strong growing mid to late-season variety which grows into a large bush after three years or so. Fruits are red when ripe.


The parents of Captivator are Spinefree x Clark (source here). Although bred in Canada for its ability to withstand extreme winter cold conditions, Captivator is in fact a cross between a European and American variety.


The berries start off as pale green but as they mature they turn to a deep burgundy red colour. When pinkish they are excellent for cooking and when fully ripe they can be eaten from the bush. They will still have a slightly tart taste but a very light drizzle of honey gets round that problem! We picked about 1.5kg per plant.

Plants grow to a height and spread of 1.6m (5ft) which is large for a gooseberry bush. They have a spreading habit and the branches easily droop under the weight of only minimal fruit. We have seen some growers layering the ground beneath them with straw and others growing the bushes through peony frames to keep the branches off the ground. Yields are slightly lower than average.

There is very little the UK weather can throw at this variety which will stop it producing a decent crop. It’s never going to win any prizes for the volume of berries produced but it consistently produces a crop each year.

At the beginning of a season there will be some juvenile thorns on the bush but by the time of maturity these have all but disappeared. Disease resistance is excellent especially as far as mildew is concerned. The fruits are produced from mid to late July depending on local conditions.

In common with many other gooseberry varieties, Captivator takes around three years before it begins to produce decent amount of fruit. You can expect peak amounts to be produced after six years or so. There seems to be nothing you can do to speed up this process, patience is definitely required. But the plants live for a long time so your patience will be rewarded well.


Some garden centres will sell Captivator gooseberry bushes so there is no difficulty in obtaining them. They are also widely available online.

Our recommendation for a reputable online supplier with a five year guarantee would be Crocus. They have served us well and supply healthy, good sized plants which are extremely well packaged. Click here for their page on the Captivator gooseberry bush in a 3 litre pot with a five year guarantee.



: Eating fresh and cooking

SKIN COLOUR / TEXTURE: Deep purple when fully ripe

TASTE AND TEXTURE: Good flavour for cooking, needs slight sweetening if eaten fresh


PLANT SIZE: Larger than normal for a gooseberry bush, height and spread of 1.6m (5ft)


POLLINATION: Self-fertile


SPECIAL FEATURES: Thornless and very reliable cropper even in adverse weather conditions.




Date: 12 April 2017 From: Bob
Good in depth review of gooseberry Captivator. It is a difficult plant to ascertain as trial data is so mixed. On one hand some say it is arguably the best thornless gooseberry ever to be introduced(American nurseries) on the other a low yielding erratic producing plant(Australian growers). In Europe it has had some success in extensive trials tested on specific soils in colder climes.

For the home grower it should be ideal, even left unpruned it will reach a sprawling bush size of 5 feet high by as much wide and should still produce quality fruit of a potential of a couple of kg, if not more. My own experiences echo the

writer of the above review however it is still a worthy plant to have in the garden and it responds quite well to regular pruning to curb its health vigor. In any season, one can still expect yields of 1kg plus. I had 2.5kg off my bush last year, but it took 4 years to maximise its potential and it only bore very light in the first two years of its planting. It does not like light soils, and much prefers a heavier one like Whinnam’s Industry. By adopting this strategy you may see heavier yields each year. Nice one to have without the pains of nasty thorns during picking time!