Every inch counts in a small garden, so make as much use of walls as of traditional open ground to let you grow delicious space-hungry fruit such as our Scottish brambles or Tayberries.

Whatever its size, every garden has walls and boundary fencing, and arches often divide one part of the garden from another. This is where climbing fruit bushes come into their own. Imagine slipping into the garden on a sunny, summer day, meandering through an archway and stretching up a lazy hand to pluck an inviting succulent berry.

You could choose a bramble or Tayberry, and by the way, I’m using our Scottish term ‘bramble’, not the generic English ‘blackberry’. Why consign a perfectly good word to the dustbin of history in favour of dreary standardisation?

And don’t worry, both climbers have thornless cultivars, so there’s no risk of ripping your clothes or skin. I’d think the only point of a thorny would be making an impenetrable burglar-proof hedge round the garden.

Although the recommended spacing for a few bramble and Tayberry varieties can be as little as 2m, it’s usually twice that. This makes a wall perfect for training. But you do need to choose a sunny south-facing place and the soil must be very free-draining. The bushes need copious amount of water while fruit is developing, but can’t tolerate standing water at any time, particularly in winter.

There’s a good selection of thornless bramble varieties, several of which were bred at the Scottish Crop Research Institute, SCRI, now James Hutton Institute, at Invergowrie. ‘Loch Ness’ is probably the world’s most popular cultivar, partly because, with a spacing of 2m between plants, it’s less vigorous than many, making it easier to manage in a small space.

Again, Scotland played a pivotal role in the Tayberry, with SCRI crossing a bramble with a raspberry to create the new cultivar. So far, there are few thornless varieties, but ‘Medana’ is the go to one, providing a large yield of large delicious berries.

Brambles and Tayberries behave in much the same way, producing 3 or 4 several metre long stems during the first year and fruiting on them in the second, just like rasps. Grow in near-horizontal fans along a wall and you can trim to suit the available space.

When pruning, you remove the old stems after fruiting, cutting just above the base. To make this easier, you can grow all one year’s stems in one direction in the first year with the following year’s ones in the other direction from the crown. You almost certainly won’t have space for that. So carefully remove the old stems, undoing any ties, and trying desperately to avoid cutting the new ones!

If you panic at this thought, the thornless Tayberry ‘Medana’ is your saviour. Like autumn fruiting rasps, it’s a primocane variety, fruiting on the current year’s canes. In the autumn, remove all the stems and new growth will start in spring, providing a July harvest.

The Herald:

Plant of the week

Rose Alchymist is a beautiful climbing rose that flowers over several weeks with very fragrant blooms. Fully double and quartered the blooms open a subtle blend of orange and pale yellow usually fading to apricot tones as they age.

Alchymist is tolerant of poorer soils and partial shade.