The Life and Times of Growing Boysenberries

Growing boysenberries doesn't have to look the same throughout the years

Are you growing boysenberries? When I was young, we had oodles of berries growing (thanks, birds!), though we never grew boysenberry. My mother taught me never to grow raspberries or blackberries in my yard, or they’d take over the whole thing, so I’d never even considered boysenberry until I read today’s sweet story, “Birds and Boysenberries,” by Marvella Peterman.

Did you know that boysenberries are a hybrid of raspberries, blackberries, and loganberries? They’re big and black like blackberries, but sweet and fragile like raspberries. For that reason, they don’t hold up well, which is why you don’t really see them in grocery stores. The only time I’ve had them was in Napa Valley, California where they were created. If I was going to grow a voracious berry, boysenberries are the type I could get behind – and they grow in USDA Hardiness Zones 5-9.

Today’s story about Marvella’s grandfather, who loved growing boysenberries, really tugs on the heartstrings. He spent his whole life protecting his precious boysenberry crop from the birds, and in the end … well, keep reading, and you’ll see.

Do You Love Growing Boysenberries, and Do You Share Your Boysenberries with the Birds?

This story comes from our archive that spans over 30 years and includes more than 130 magazine issues of GreenPrints. Pieces like these that inject the joy of gardening into everyday life lessons always brighten up my day, and I hope it does for you as well. Enjoy!

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Birds and Boysenberries

By Marvella Peterman of Pacific Grove, CA.
Feeding Bird

The garden of my childhood was a wonderful place. The caretaker of this magical playground was my father. He spent hours tending the flowers, vegetables, and fruit trees.

One of Dad’s prized crops was his boysenberry vines—carefully tended, pruned, and trained onto homemade fences. (The jams Mother made from them was one of our family’s unique Christmas presents.)

His boysenberry nemesis was birds—mostly jays and mockingbirds who agreed that these were very good berries, indeed. I remember the frustration in Dad’s voice when he yelled at them. He even shot over their heads with a rifle to scare them away. (This was the 1950s. You probably couldn’t do that today.)

Many years passed. Dad began getting weaker. He still spent a great deal of time in his garden, but more and more, he just sat in the sun and enjoyed the place he had created.

One morning when I was home from college, doing my laundry, I saw Dad through a window sitting in his garden. I was sad to see him so frail, but what brought a smile to my face and forever etched the moment in my memory was what he was doing.

Dad was putting peanuts close by so the birds would come up to get them.

By Marvella Peterman of Pacific Grove, CA., published originally in 2015, in GreenPrints Issue #103. Illustrated by Linda Cook Devona

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Did this remind you of a similar story you’d like to share? Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear it. 


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