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Rubus Cockburnianus is a variety of deciduous bramble which is grown not for its fruits, but primarily for its winter show of bare bark as the new prickly shoots are brilliant blue-white. Low-maintenance and highly decorative, the White-Stemmed Bramble has been awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit.
Native to China and introduced to the UK in 1907 by E.H. Wilson, Rubus Cockburnianus is prized for the appearance of its thorny white branches in winter. In spring the lance-shaped bright green leaves (usually with 9 oval leaflets) up to 10 cm long emerge on arching stems. The leaves become darker green as they mature with a white underbelly. Small and insignificant saucer-shaped purple flowers are produced in racemes on the previous year’s wood, followed by unpalatable black fruits in autumn which will attract birds to the garden.
Hardy throughout the UK and northern Europe, Rubus Cockburnianus will grow to a mature height and spread of 2.5-4metres in 5 to 10 years. This bramble spreads aggressively through underground runners, so should be sited with that in mind. There are two options for pruning: either cut all stems back to the ground in early spring for the best winter show, or cut older stems out and leave half to flower and fruit. When planting the White-Stemmed Bramble in a group or as part of a hedgerow, space plants 60 cm apart.
Plant Rubus Cockburnianus in full sun or dappled shade in an exposed or sheltered position with a south, east, or west-facing aspect, in sand, loam or chalk soil that is moist but well-drained. It will not tolerate wet feet.
The White-Stemmed Bramble makes not only an excellent ornamental shrub with its winter display, but also is an extremely effective boundary hedge, as its thorny branches create an impenetrable barrier to discourage both human and animal intruders. Left to grow wild, it will spread to form a wide thicket which will not only keep out mammals, but will provide valuable habitat for birds. It also makes an excellent ground cover on difficult slopes. If Rubus Cockburnianus is grown in a contained space where its growth can easily be limited by pruning or barriers.
A vigorous grower with a striking winter appearance, Rubus Cockburnianus is a hardy shrub that can make a big impact when sited carefully and maintained by annual pruning.