Death on hairy stems, or, the sad demise of the Japanese Wineberry

The first plant when the trouble began

When I decided to grow a couple of Japanese Wineberry (Rubus phoenicolasius) plants in my tiny city garden, I was hoping for oodles of the sweet red berries, picked fresh from the bush in August. And the plant itself seemed so pretty, with bright red, unusual and hairy stems. However, I’m not quite sure what went wrong. Planted in full sun in my south-facing garden, they should have thrived and indeed they initially sprouted any number of leaves and flowers. 

And then it all started to go wrong. First one started to look

The first plant really starts to get ill

pretty peaky. The leaves curled and dried out, the branches started to droop and the plant looked really sorry for itself. I posted on twitter, searched the web and contacted the nursery I’d bought it from, desperate to find a solution. Nobody seemed to know what was wrong. I scoured the leaves for aphids or other bugs and found none. I checked the soil around the plant to ensure the roots were getting enough moisture and it was fine. I assumed I’d just been unlucky with a dud plant. But then a couple of weeks later, the other one started to sicken. 

The second Japanese Wineberry becomes seriously sick

Given that they were in a raised bed with a blueberry plant and a climbing rose, I started to worry that whatever was wrong with them might spread. And so it was with some serious regret that I removed the plants. I replaced them with a couple of other plants, a second blueberry that wasn’t doing very well in a partially shaded pot, and a Jostaberry. They appear to be settling into their new home very well, but I’m really sad about the Japanese Wineberry. Maybe I’ll try again next year. For now, it was my first urban gardening failure, and quite frustrating because I don’t know what happened. 

Replacement Jostaberry and Blueberry

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We farm a three acre smallholding in Hampshire, England, having fled London in pursuit of the good life for our little family. We mess about with an assorted menagerie and try to be as self-sufficient as possible in meat and fruit and vegetables whilst enjoying our plot and an outdoors lifestyle with our son. I am the luckiest person that I know.

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