What is it? An intensely sweet, tangy blackberry-like fruit that starts to disintegrate on picking and stains everything nearby, hence you’ll never find it in the shops. It’s not new, having been grown on these shores since Roman times, but these fruit trees are curiously undervalued and underplanted. How much space do you need? Mulberries are renowned for the spreading gnarly shape they obtain with age, growing into substantial trees up to 6–10m (19–33ft) high and just as wide. Lower limbs sometimes need propping to stop arms splitting. Which should I grow? ‘Chelsea’ (also sold as ‘King James I’) is an excellent cultivar with large tasty fruits that start to crop slightly earlier than the species, perhaps after just five years instead of 10. New on the market from Suttons is the dwarf mulberry ‘Charlotte Russe’ that reaches only 1.5m (5ft) high and fruits from a very young age. The teeny plant I bought this spring carried 10 fruit this July – not enough for a pie, but pretty exciting. Where’s best to plant one? These fairly accommodating trees do best in full sun on fertile, well-drained soil. Pick a sheltered spot if you garden in a cooler region. When should I plant it? You can plant container-grown mulberries in September or spring; bare-root November to March. Do they need special treatment? Not
especially. Clear the ground of perennial weeds and break up compacted soil. Finish with a mulch of well-rotted organic matter and water deeply during dry spells for the first couple of years.