Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Blackthorn in My Garden


        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?

45 comments:

  1. Nadezda el licor es conocido por Pacharan y está muy bueno. Se echan las endrinas maduras en anís y se dejan macerar 3, meses .... Buenisiiimooo ;) Intenta hacerlo que tienes las endrinas. Se bebe mucho por Navarra.
    Un beso.




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    1. Gracias por la receta, Laura! Voy a probar a hacer el licor en otono, cuando las endrinas se maduran.

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  2. I do like tart jellies: rhubarb, gooseberry, etc. This plant reminds me of the wild plum (Prunus americanum) that grows around here. It sends up sharp spurs from underground - they can hurt!

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    1. I think, Jason these two species of Prunus are of one family, the both have similar berries.
      Thank you!

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  3. A beautiful not very demanding tree/shrub this is! Love those crispy white blooms! Good thing you finally won the battle against the ants and aphids, they can be such a nuisance in the garden and difficult to deal with.
    I don't have this tree in the garden but from what you tell us here I think it might even survive in our garden.
    Don't think I'd care much for tasting the Sloe berry wine but the jam I would try. Must be so rewarding to be able to make jam from fruits out of your own garden.
    Marian

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    1. Marian, it's true it was difficult to deal with black ants.Don't know if they come this year, brrr...
      The sloe jam I've made is tasty, sweet-sour. Thank you!

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  4. I have heard of Prunus spinosa, as it is native to UK and often found growing wild in hedgerows and scrub land. I would have loved to have one growing in my garden but as always – where do I put it? I have never tasted sloe gin or jam, but I would have liked to. Thanks for all the info Nadezda!

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    1. I think you you would like the sloe jam, Helene. I didn't drink Sloe gin, I've seen it in Spain. But jam is going well with pancakes, cottage cheese, pudding, etc. Thank you!

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  5. Beautiful pictures and story about the Prunus spinosa. I know this one, we have it growing in the wild and see them in the morning on my walks with Snarf, they are flowering at the moment here too. I did not know you can use the berries for gin or jam. May be when I have enough time I will collect berries for jam in autumn.

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    1. Janneke, I'm sure the blooming Blackthorn is beautiful in your place! You might pick up sloe berries after frost in autumn. And Snarf would help you carrying the basket!

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  6. Good morning Nadezda!Wonderful pictures!!I dont know this tree or the fruits,they look like plams to me!It must be so tasty and yammy!
    But the tree bloomes so preety!!Wish you a happy week!!
    Dimi...

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    1. They are plums, but small and a little bitter, Dimi. I've put more sugar cooking jam. Happy week you too!

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  7. Blackthorn grows everywhere in our hedgerows here and is full of flower and looking beautiful at the moment. This display will be followed by hawthorn.

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    1. Yes, hawthorn.is nice when is blooming. Here it is in bloom later than blackthorn, but both are beautiful. Thank you Sue!

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    2. It's later here too. With hawthorn the leaves come before the flowers unlike the blackthorn that flowers first.

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  8. I love the pictures of those drupes! They're lovely.

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  9. I love the shrub, Nadezda, and am pleased that you get fruit now too! I had heard of Sloe Gin, for example, but never really knew what it meant.

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    1. If you have blackthorn in your garden Astrid, you could try to make jam too. Sure you will love it!

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  10. How interesting Nadezda! I have heard the "blackthorn tree" praised in songs (mostly British songs), but I never knew exactly what it was. I have also heard of sloe gin but also was not aware that it was made from the fruit of the blackthorn. It sounds like a lovely and productive tree to have. Glad you were able to save it from the ants!

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    1. Yes, I was Rebecca! It was hard deal. I didn't drink sloe gin, jam I've made is tasty, but berries need more sugar.
      Thank you!

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  11. Dear Nadezda!

    I know the blackthorn. These shrubs grow in my country. Unfortunately, do not have such beautiful fruit. Now more this of interest in the fruits of blackthorn. its collection is difficult due to the spikes.
    I wish you a good, quiet night.
    Lucia ♥ ♥ ♥

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    1. Take care, Lucia of thorns when you pick up berries!

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  12. Lovely shots of your blackthorn, Nadezda! I don't have that kind of tree in our garden. Happy week, Nadezda!

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  13. Your blackthorn looks so healthy and full of fruit. And you can do so much with it...wonderful post.

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    1. Thank you, Michelle! Glad you're blogging again!

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  14. I don't know this tree at all, but the fruit look very beautiful. It reminds me of an old-fashioned damson plum tree and I'm wondering if it's the same?

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    1. You're right, Juliet. Blackthorn and damson plum tree are of the same botanic family. But Blackthorn has berries smaller than damson plum. The damson plum is very popular here and often is used for muesli. Thank you!

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  15. Nadezda your Blackthorn tree blooms are so pretty. Ahh, signs of spring. So exciting.

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    1. Hi, Lona!
      Sure your seedling are pretty too, they are sign of spring as well!

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  16. The blooms are so delicate and pretty, much like sakura, plum or peach flowers. The berries are lovely too even though they are bitter and tart. I've not heard of this plant, so it is a piece of informative and interesting post.

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    1. It seems sakura, you're right Elsie. My garden is white when blackthorn is blooming. Thank you!

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  17. I have never seen before. Both of the flowers and fruits look so fascinating. Thanks for sharing

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  18. I love the delicate flowers of the Blackthorn bush. We saw many in the hedges in Cornwall last Spring. I can't remember seeing any here. Seems like they would be a good plant to grow in our dry conditions. A very interesting post! Thank you Nadezda.
    Betty

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    1. I think the blackthorn is enough often seen in England, is not rare plant. And maybe it could grow in your place as well, is very undemanding.
      Thank you Betty!

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  19. Nadezda, your garden is wonderful and so colored.
    Greetings :)

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  20. Very interesting post, Nadezda. Ants are a problem here too. They are coming inside my house despite my spraying efforts. Your sloe fruits look a lot like plums. I bet they're very tasty. You are such a good gardener!

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    1. Glad I won ants last summer and I hope they are far from my garden. The plums are tasty but a bit bitter.
      Thank you Grace!

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  21. Blackthorn is so-called because the flowers appear before the leaves.
    We use sloes too, for jam and wine making. But we go picking the fruits from the wild. There are many sloe hedges around here in the fields.

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    1. Hi Friko!
      I think your home-made wine is better than one can buy in department store.
      Have a nice weekend!

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  22. I'm not sure if blackthorn grows here. I've heard of it but never seen it locally. I know it grows well in England. The flowers are very pretty. I love it when I get plants from other people, especially ones I'm not familiar with. As the plants grow, they remind me of the person who gave it to me. :o)

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    1. Tammy maybe you could plant blackthorn and have your own wine or jam!
      Thank you!

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