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April 10, 2012 > Pat Kite's Garden: Raspberries really

Pat Kite's Garden: Raspberries really

By Pat Kite

This week I bought a raspberry bush, I don't know why.

Many years ago, I purchased a blackberry bush. When it took over a complete corner of my skinny yard, I had to use some form of nasty brush eliminator to get rid of it... never again!

You know how that is. But as I keep begging fresh raspberries from an acquaintance, I sneakily began scouting my garden for a sunny confined space. There are multiple raspberry types on the market, and because this space, surrounded by concrete, isn't exactly the super-sunniest, I tried to select one that proclaimed "Hardy." Often "hardy" in my garden means it dies slower, but like all gardeners, I am ever optimistic.

Sunset Garden Book lists a variety of red raspberries for our area. These include Caroline, Cascade Delight, Fallred, Latham, Summit and Willamette. I picked Latham, mostly because there were only two varieties available at my local garden store. In my Seed-Savers reference book, this description enthuses me: "Latham: The standard for spring-bearing red raspberries; extremely popular and widely grown." It goes on to say that the round, red fruits are large to very large with wonderful texture, full flavored and aromatic. The plant is reputed to be strong, vigorous, heavily productive, upright... to five feet tall and disease resistant among other great qualities.

So I immediately began salivating, even though my purchase was a root with a two-inch sprig. However, after wiping drool, I discovered some raspberries produce fruit the first year, and some lounge about until the second year. Fortunately red varieties, also called "everbearing" or "fall bearing," tend to give a small crop first year fall. Then a second crop next year summer. After fruiting, you get to prune that section. Given sun, water and sensible drainage, you should get more plants from the roots the next year.

For our usual dose of plant folklore, we travel to the Philippine Islands. The Ifugaos, a mountain people of the Luzon area, may hang raspberry vines by their house door when there is a death in the house. Why? If the spirit of the dead person tries to sneak back in, it will become entangled in the raspberry brambles... sounds sensible to me.

More fun is the Bronx cheer, "the bird," or simply razz or "the raspberry." This sound made by tongue between teeth and blowing, sort of now means "phooey to you." Where does it come from? From the English Cockney rhyming slang "raspberry tart," used by British comedians during the Post-WWII period to get around censors who didn't like the rhyming word. Aren't you glad you now know that?

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