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Raspberries are easier to grow than strawberries and they’ll fruit in both summer and autumn

Nothing beats raspberries picked still warm from the sun, ripe enough to slide easily off the central cone, or calyx, and then popped into your mouth. A bowl of fresh raspberries with single cream and perhaps a little sugar for texture is also close to heaven. I love them. 

But to have really fresh raspberries you need to grow them. Luckily that is not difficult – much easier, for example, than growing strawberries, and in my book even the best strawberry isn’t as good as an average raspberry. 

There are two types of raspberry, summer and autumn. Summer ones fruit between the end of June and mid-August and autumn ones overlap for a week or so in August and then, depending on the weather, can be picked well into October. 

Monty Don explains why raspberries are one of the best fruits to grow. The UK-based gardening expert describes how there are summer and autumn varieties of raspberries

For summer I grow ‘Malling Jewel’, an old-fashioned variety with large fruit and modest growth, ‘Glen Moy’, an abundant early cropper that has no prickles on the canes, and ‘Glen Ample’, which is also prickle-free and crops in midseason with large fruit. 

My autumn raspberries are ‘Autumn Bliss’, which are delicious, and the yellow variety ‘All Gold’. Yellow raspberries tend to be less vigorous than red ones so are ideal for smaller gardens or growing in a container. 

Monty says yellow raspberries, which grow in Autumn tend to be less vigorous than red ones so are ideal for smaller gardens or growing in a container

Monty says yellow raspberries, which grow in Autumn tend to be less vigorous than red ones so are ideal for smaller gardens or growing in a container

Both kinds are superb but autumn-fruiting ones are easier to grow. This is because summer-fruiting raspberries need a permanent framework to support the canes and have a very different pruning regime.

ASK MONTY 

Q I see loads of flies, bees, wasps and butterflies in my garden but it is years since I’ve seen a ladybird. Is there anything that I could plant to guarantee ladybirds visiting? 

Tony Watt, Edinburgh 

A Ladybirds are beetles and almost none live on plants. Their preferred foods are aphids and scale insects, and some species eat mildews. So the best way to introduce ladybirds into your garden is to have a good supply of aphids for them to eat. 

Q My Sambucus nigra ‘Black Beauty’ had big dark leaves and clusters of flowers. Why are the leaves now green and the flowers sparse? 

Graham Benson, Kent 

A You must prune it hard in spring to get dark colour on the foliage – but if you do this it’s unlikely to flower. The plants will do badly if dry and are prone to verticillium wilt, a fungal disease. If yours has it, dig it out and then start again in a new spot.

Q I have a big camellia that hasn’t flowered well this year. I cut it back after the flowers died back – was it the wrong time?

Jennifer Hodgson, Lancs 

A Watering weekly in September and October will help with flowering. Camellias don’t need pruning, but if it’s necessary, after flowering is the right time. 

Write to Monty Don at Weekend, Daily Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT or email [email protected] Please include your full name and address. We regret Monty can’t reply to letters personally. 

Autumn ones are grown as straggly bushes that need at most temporarily propping up and then are cut right to the ground every winter to start all over again each spring. 

Raspberries will grow in most soils but are happiest in a slightly acidic, sandy loam. (Loam, by the way, simply means a good, rich soil. So a ‘sandy loam’ is good topsoil with a sandy, free-draining habit rather than just another word for very sandy soil.) 

They like plenty of moisture and are happy in light shade as well as being very hardy. 

Summer-fruiting varieties produce their fruit on the previous season’s canes, so pruning involves removing all the growth that has borne fruit and leaving behind a selection of new shoots ready for next year’s harvest.

It is a job to do in stages. First, the brown canes that bore that summer’s fruit can be cut down to the ground, leaving the fresh new green canes standing (and it is good to do this as soon as fruiting has ended so the fresh green canes do not start to become brown and hard to distinguish from the old ones). 

Then reduce the canes from each plant to a maximum of five strong, straight growths, cutting any others to ground level. 

Finally, the canes that remain need holding secure for the coming year, so summer raspberries are best grown against a permanent system of support. A wall, a fence with wires or a trellis will do, although I think a freestanding line of at least two wires held up by strong posts is better as it enables you to pick on both sides and keeps the fruit well ventilated.

I tie the canes to the wires with twine, making sure they’re really secure because winter winds can catch and damage them. The result will look beautifully neat and trained, and they – along with the autumnfruiting varieties – then need no more attention other than a generous mulch of garden compost in the spring. 

Mulch them thickly each March – I find that shredded garden prunings are ideal – and rake the mulch to one side in November to let the birds eat any pupae of the raspberry beetle. 

MONTY’S PLANT OF THE WEEK: HOLLYHOCKS

Hollyhocks (pictured) are perennials but their longevity varies from garden to garden. They can reach 2m or more

Hollyhocks (pictured) are perennials but their longevity varies from garden to garden. They can reach 2m or more

One of the towering sentinels of high summer, hollyhocks, or Alcea, reach 2m or more. They’re perennials but their longevity varies from garden to garden, although they’ll self-seed prodigiously. 

While happiest on fertile, welldrained soil in full sun, if it is too wet, too cold or the soil is too heavy, they’re prone to rust, a fungus that coats the leaves and weakens the plants badly. 

Alcea ficifolia, which has fig-shaped leaves and primrose-coloured flowers, is far more rustresistant – and longer-lived – than Alcea rosea. 

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