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[nafex] Doyle vs. Triple Crown

 1.     A few weeks ago, I said I would write up a comparison between the Doyle and Triple Crown thornless trailing blackberries.  I planted both in the spring of 2000; four Doyle plants and ten Triple Crowns, and, as we near the end of their second season, I am now in a position to carry out that threat.
    The berries are along a fence, in soil that has been improved with stable manure over a span of more than ten years.  Part of the area was previously devoted to Shawnee thorny blackberries, so I had to pull up maverick Shawnees which kept appearing the first season.  They were easy to spot because of the thorns.
    Both Doyle and Triple Crown require a fairly elaborate support system for maximum production, and I built structures for them using 8 ft. landscape timbers at the ends, supported by treated 2x4's on top screwed together with deck screws into a "T" form, and four strands of No. 9 galvanized wire stretched tight between the end posts.  The longest treated 2x4's I could find at Home Depot were 16 ft., which is about the maximum you would want to use for a single span.  After I buried the ends of the landscape timbers, the fence is about 6 1/2 feet high; I now wish I had used 10 ft. posts and made it 8 feet high, since the more productive vines you can tie up, the better the berry production.  And higher is better for picking too.  Don't put your structure too close to a fence.  You want to be able to get at both sides of the plants to pick, prune, and train them.
    Obviously, my experience here in N. Virginia would not necessarily transfer to other climate zones, but it should be fairly typical for much of the eastern region, the lower midwest, and the south-central states.  I can't address the issue of hardiness, since it doesn't get that cold here.  Cold for us is 10 degrees F. above zero, and many winters we don't even reach that.

2.  So here are some preliminary observations, based on the first fruiting season:
Flavor:  Triple Crown wins.  It is considerably sweeter than Doyle, and is delightful to eat right off the vines.  When eaten fresh, it has a better, more "blackberry" flavor than Doyle.  The Doyle is more acidic, slightly sourish, more like some of the wild blackberries.  But Doyle is great for jelly, wine, cobblers and pies, or any use where some sugar is added to cut the acidity.
Size:   Triple Crown is slightly larger, in the first flush of berries, but not by a whole lot.  Some of the Triple Crowns were so big they looked like little asteroids.  They were larger than the two thorny varieties I have grown, (Shawnee and Darrow), and, in the initial flush of berries, so were the Doyles.
Productivity:   Doyle wins hands down.  It is at least 3-4 times as productive as Triple Crown; it has more and larger berry clusters, and continues producing about ten days after Triple Crown has stopped.  If you want sheer volume of berries, for winemaking or a lot of jelly, Doyle is probably the one for you.  With ideal soil and site conditions, you can get 10-12 gallons of Doyles from two plants in the first fruiting season.
Season:  We started picking Triple Crowns on July 10, and the Doyles on July 12.  The Triple Crowns were finished on August 10, for a season of exactly one month.  However, I am still picking Doyles, although the berries are now smaller and somewhat seedier, so it looks as if the Doyle picking season will be about 10 days longer than Triple Crown.  That certainly adds to the total production of the Doyle, although the pickings have now declined to less than one gallon.
Vigor:  Initially, I thought the Doyles would be considerably less vigorous than the Triple Crowns, based on growth during the first few months after planting.  But the Severtson Farms people apparently propagate by cuttings (they call it tissue culture), and ship small, fully-leafed out plants in elaborate containers.  I think it just takes a little longer for the Doyle plants to catch up, but now they appear to be nearly as vigorous as Triple Crown.  Incidentally, some of the Triple Crown canes that have formed this summer for next year's production are fully 1 inch across at the base.  Like little trees.  If the size of the canes is any indicator, production from both of these berries should increase significantly next season.  The way these things grow reminds me a little of Jack's beanstalk.
Soil Requirements:  Both of these berries require a really rich soil environment, and can benefit from foliar feeding during the growing season.  I sprayed them once with my hose-end Miracle Grow feeder, but the real secret is compost in large quantities.  The Severtson Farms people recommend the application of finished compost, since heat from composting will damage the canes, but I will put on fresh stable manure to a depth of 10 inches or so after the first freeze.  At this application rate, the manure will not compost, but will break down gradually on the surface over the winter, and be ready to go next spring.  That has worked for me before with a lot of other things.  I never really till the manure into the soil.  Just keep putting on more, and let the earthworms till it.  The Severtson Farms people strongly recommend the use of plastic stretchy tape to tie up the canes.  Initially, I used 3/4 inch tape, and found it somewhat awkward to tie, so I started using the plastic covered wire twisties.  Now I have some 1/2 stretchy tape, which is easier to use, and I am using it for the main canes, but will probably continue to use the wire twisties for the laterals, which don't require so much support.  I think in the area of Texas where the Doyle comes from they experience a fairly high level of wind that we don't have here, and the wire twisties are more likely to cut into the canes.

3.  For Vic:  I think it was you who asked whether blackberries are also called "dewberries".  I have heard the term dewberry, but don't really know what it is.  Perhaps it's just a regional name for wild blackberries.  When I said that Doyle and Triple Crown were "new" berries, I meant only new varieties, since the thornless trailing blackberry has been around for quite a while.  I am familiar with Black Satin and Chester, and am sure there are others.  I never thought the thornless types could compete with thorny berries for quality and productivity, but I was wrong.  Given the right conditions, they are even better, and they don't tear up your forearms or stick you right through leather gloves.

4.  For MN Del:  I stand in admiration of you guys who grow fruit where winter temps of 30 degrees F below zero are routine.  I wish I could tell you whether Doyle and Triple Crown might surivive where you live, but I can't test for that.  I know you are growing Chester, and Doyle might be just as hardy.  Obviously, you won't build a 6-7 foot structure for your berries, since you need the snow cover to protect the canes, but they might be trainable on wires at 18-24 inches, with some plastic sheeting underneath to keep the berries clean.  You're not going to get the production you would from a taller fence, but you still might do pretty well with Doyle, if the canes will make it over the winter.  You would laugh at what we call snow cover around here.  Maybe 3-5 inches that is gone in 36 hours, but it is always enough to bring traffic in the Washington, D.C. area to a grinding halt.  You probably wouldn't even notice it there in MN.

5.  Cultivation Note:  Both of these varieties will tip-root pretty readily, so if you have the time don't buy a whole lot of plants.  Make your own.  Triple Crown is a USDA release, so I don't think there is a patent, but the patent on Doyle is held by the Severtson Farms people.  When I see a Doyle cane start to illegally tip-root, I place it under arrest immediately.  Haven't decided what the punishment will be yet.

6.  Jelly Note: Made some jelly with 3 gallons of the first Doyles.  3 gallons dry measure made:
     -  19 cups juice, to which we added
     -   10 cups sugar mixed with 10 tsp. Pomona's pectin, and
     -    10 tsp. calcium solution.
The result was exactly 12 pints of really extraordinary blackberry jelly.

7.  BTW: I think it was Sam Franc out in OR who put me on to the Doyle berry in the first place; before that I had never heard of it.  I want to thank him for that.  Believe it was also Sam who first mentioned the Baba raspberry, which has also been a great success here.  Saw mention of Triple Crown for the first time here too; don't remember who brought it up.  I know that F. Bunny is growing it in IL.  The msg board has its benefits.

Rgds, Don Yellman, Great Falls, VA

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