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Today I finally installed the guide wires (not guywires) to train the grapevine (Vitis ‘Bluebell’). I’m not sure why the cultivar is called ‘Bluebell’; all the pictures I’ve seen of the fruit show grapes that are almost black. Anyway, I should have done this weeks, even months ago…in fact, arguably since last year. Anyway, it’s done now and I can start training it at last.

I say at last because it got held back a year by the local chapter of the minions of hell, a.k.a. the rabbits, who came the first winter it was planted and chewed it down to a stump. So last year it had to start over. Otherwise I could have been looking forward to a bunch of grapes this year.

I’ve never trained a grapevine before and there are many methods to choose from, but I’ve settled on double leaders on a 6-arm Kniffen system. That is, two main stems, with each stem being allowed to produce 3 side branches. All of the branches on a given stem will grow in the same direction, and in the opposite direction to the other stem. I think it’s ambitious for a newbie, but grape plants are vigorous growers and therefore forgiving of pruning mistakes.

‘Bluebell’ is apparently a self-pollinating cultivar, but even self-pollinators set fruit better with another pollinator nearby. I have two other grape plants that I haven’t quite decided what to do with yet. One is a wild grape that keeps showing up in a friend’s garden; he gave it to me last year, but I haven’t gotten around to trying to figure out the species yet. The other is also a wild grape, a native species called the summer grape (Vitis aestivalis) that is supposed to be quite tolerant of hot, dry, sunny areas. I’ve been looking for one for ages and this year I lucked out. The original intent was to put it up against a very hot, sunny brick wall, but now I’m not so sure. I might grow them in containers and train one of them into a standard, like the old Victorian gardeners liked to do.

The other blue concern today is the jay. Or rather the family of blue jays (Cyanocitta cristata) that’s taken up residence in the area. This is a first; normally I don’t see bluejays in the yard before September, when they make their way south. They’ve certainly never settled here for the season in all the time I’ve lived here.

Normally I would be happy with this situation. Blue jays are a native species, and another species of bird in the area is a sign of increased biodiversity, which is good. But although I love birds in general, I don’t like blue jays. They’re loud but don’t sing (at least, they seldom sing nicely), and they’re greedy and aggressive, and often chase away the other birds…such as the ones that do sing nicely. I know I haven’t been hearing the chickadees as much in the past few weeks. Just today, in fact, I saw a jay chasing the local cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis), who is an old friend. Not impressed.