The Blackthorn tree also know as the Sloe bush (Prunus spinosa) currently is not common in gardens. I'd like to tell you about it.
Blackthorn is a deciduous tree, its leaves turn yellow in autumn and fall off in winter. In nature Blackthorn dwells on the edge of woodlands forming dense thickets and hedgerows. The Blackthorn ‘tree’ is actually more like a large shrub, it is absolutely undemanding and can grow in any soil and not demanding to watering. But drought practically does not happen here in Northern Europe area, rather there are days with prolonged rains.
The tree bears small, delicate, white flowers with oval petals clustered into a star shape in early spring. They are usually white, but occasionally pink, with red tipped stamens. The fruit is generally good for picking after the first frost, when blue-black sometimes deep purplish fruit is ripe and its bitterness reduces, the small plum-like fruit is also known as 'drupes'.
Some years ago, when I almost planted all my new plants my neighbor brought a small twig with three roots. It was Blackthorn, she had dug it of the shrub in her garden. I planted the Sloe bush near the garden gate.
The first and second year my Blackthorn only grew, did not bloom, the third year small white flowers appeared on its branches and in the autumn it produced one fruit (!). After a year three fruit were and I told the neighbor that sloe berry harvest has tripled :)).
Last year black ground ants attacked my young Blackthorn. You're most likely to see these ants in your garden. They generally nest underground, sometimes in large colonies, invading homes and gardens seeking food. These ants are not dangerous to humans, but can be a nuisance in the garden when they protect aphids.
They began to grow up aphids on young branches and leaves and my Blackthorn was suffering. What could I do? I sprayed different means, but the ants still were growing up aphids, white flowers appeared, began to fade and to wither because aphids ate all that would grow on the branches. Then I began to search the internet for advice and the people told how they struggle with aphids. Gardeners apply a 3-inch wide band of masking tape to a tree, especially where ants are frequent visitors. Also people told to place sugar-based ant baits on either side of the ants' trails and around their nest's opening. I wanted ants out of my garden so I implemented all recommendations.
At the fall I picked the fruit after the first frost and decided to use them at home in winter. I've read that Sloe gin or vodka is a wonderful Christmas drink, like this one Spanish 'Zoco'.
Even if you don't like gin, it is worth making as it tastes more like a liqueur, as you can make it as sweet as you like.
Sloes also make a lovely tart jelly to go with game or with your Christmas dinner as an alternative to cranberry like this 'Sloe jam'.
I've made jam for pudding, but fruit do need sugar due to their bitterness.
Would you like to taste Sloe berry wine or jam? Have you seen this tree or do you have it in your garden?