NEW FOR 2022. Introduced in 1934 by the Geneva (NY) Agricultural Experiment Station, 'Bristol' is from the first generation of black raspberry cultivars released by a public plant breeding program in the US. Black raspberries have always been something of a niche crop, more likely to be encountered by most people as a wild plant, but in our neck of the woods — the Mid-Atlantic — black raspberries are an old-timey favorite for products from jams, jellies, and pies, to yogurts, milkshakes, and (especially) ice cream. They can even be found fresh at some farmers' markets. From what we've been told, it's similarly beloved in the Midwest, where they might more likely be called "black caps."
Though it was an early release, 'Bristol' is still considered by many to be the best-tasting black raspberry cultivar available. Considered a mid-season variety, it produces one crop per season, but established plants can be picked daily for up to a month in a good year. The berries are mid-sized, but plants are very productive, and the fruit are good for fresh eating, freezing, or processing. We find the flavor is best in relatively dry summers that follow a wet or snowy winter (the dryness seems to concentrate the sugars in the fruit).
Our two patches of 'Bristol' black raspberries are growing near some plants of 'Cumberland' — a larger-fruited but not quite as tasty cultivar — so we're hopeful that some of the seedlings that come from these seeds will combine the best traits of both of these. In any case, black raspberries don't grow precisely true to type, so every seedling will have a new and unique combination of genes, never before seen on this earth — and never to be seen again, unless you continue propagating it! We're offering these seeds to help you on your plant breeding journey. If you find a really good one, you can slap a name on it and send it out into the world as part of your legacy! Do please keep us posted!
GROWING TIPS: Seeds are likely to benefit from 30-60 days cold moist stratification, followed by planting in a moist medium and kept moist until sprouting. They might take a few months to sprout, and likely will not fruit until their second year at the earliest. Black raspberries like sunny locations with well-aerated soil (they want to send roots down at least a foot). We recommend separating seedings quite a bit so you can evaluate the best plants for future propagation. Without regular pruning, they will develop into a dense thicket.