Japanese Wineberries


Japanese wineberries Rubus phoenicolasius are a species of berry, native to Asia, in the same family as blackberries and raspberries.  

I introduced one to my garden in the winter of 2022 for several reasons. The main reason was that it bears (reputedly delicious) fruit. The second reason was that it would be a good climbing cover plant for a bare section of fence. The stems or canes are a striking cherry-red colour with abundant bristles and occasional prickles. The third reason was that it might help deter neighbourhood cats from climbing into the garden (and using my vegetable  beds as a toilet).

In July 2023 I had my first harvest and the berries were indeed delicious! They were a little difficult to pick as they seemed to come apart into segments very easily, rather than holding together as whole berries. The bracts surrounding each fruit are also tipped with very sticky glandular hairs which also came away with the fruits. The fruits ripened in batches over a couple of weeks and it was very pleasant to pick and eat them straight off the plant as I walked by. If I picked a small bunch then I put these in a bowl of water to allow me to skim off some the hairy bits which floated. These didn’t detract from the strong, sweet taste which was a little like red wine in my opinion.

By the end of the season it was apparent that a had two old canes on which the fruit had grown, along with two newly grown canes which would provide next year’s harvest. The canes have many buds all along their length which will become the lateral branches on which the berries will grow. You can see on the photos below the difference between the old brown canes and the newer red canes which have no side shoots or old flower bracts.

Pruning (January 2024)

I hadn’t been able to find much information on how to care for and prune Japanese wineberries so I decided to treat them a bit like blackberry. I removed this year’s fruiting canes entirely and then re-tied the new canes into position. I did reduce the length somewhat to make them a bit more manageable. Sturdy gloves are essential for handling these canes!

Two old (brown) canes with side-shoots, and two red (new) canes for next season's fruit
Pretty but vicious!
The two newer canes are now trimmed back and tied onto the trellis
Tip rooted section!

I had suspected the stems might toot from the tips like blackberries and indeed over the summer I noticed some canes arched down towards the ground before I corrected them. Whilst pruning I did spot one which had made it to the ground and had rooted. Yayy! Free plants 😀

It wasn’t really where I wanted a new wineberry plant to grow so I pulled it up (quite easily), chopped it off the main plant and looked for a new home for it. It ended up a bit closer to the original plant as I ran out of ideas but I may move it again before the winter is over.

I would definitely recommend this plant to anyone wanting an interesting fruit in their garden. It takes up minimal space and looks very attractive. Just make sure to consider its spiny-ness.

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