Bullace and sloe: what splendid, evocative, home-spun names for fruits that form such an integral part of the countryside. Both are close relatives of the damson and should be grown in similar fashion. The bullace is easy to grow, planted 5m (16ft) apart. It has the advantage of fruiting late, the small, rounded fruits sometimes hanging on the tree in good condition until early November.
The wild bullace has black fruits and is indeed obtainable from nurserymen as Black Bullace, which is simple enough.
The white Bullace is found in several forms, particularly in Essex and East Anglia.
Both black and white kinds are self-fertile, so one tree can be planted on its own.
This is our familiar blackthorn, found so frequently in hedges and woods. There seems little point in cultivating it in gardens, unless the owner has a special liking for sloe gin, or a perfectly understandable passion for the damson-like sloe as a preserve.
The tiny white flowers are one of the earlier harbingers of spring, and because of this the crop is all too often affected by spring frost. The point of this is the obvious suggestion that if the sloe was given a sheltered position and a modicum of love in a garden the level of cropping and the quantity of raw material for the home manufacture of sloe gin could be quite astonishing.