Plum tree varieties, Denver

fredbram(z5 denver)May 20, 2008

I am replacing an italian prune plum tree, which has borne fruit for us reliably, but has died of old age/snow storm damage.

I'd like to get a plum that is better for eating out of hand--I really like the italian prune for jam and making prunes, but I prefer other types for eating raw. Does anyone have any experience with santa rosa plum trees on the front range? They are sold in some of the local nurseries, but I don't want to have a fruit tree that only produces occasionally, I'd like one that is pretty reliable. How about mount royal--it seems to be reliable here, but I'm unfamiliar with it. Is it a tasty plum for eating, is it just a variation on italian prune?

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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

Fred:

I checked on the Dave Wilson website and couldn't find the article I wanted. But I know they have recommended Bavay's Green Gage and Superior for cold winter plums. Another you might try is Stanley. These are all avaliable from Raintree.

The Fruitnut

    Bookmark   May 20, 2008 at 10:31AM
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bboy(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

In general, plums are considered one of the most dependable fruit producers in our area and produce a crop almost every year. Several European varieties that are reliable in our area include Stanley, Green Gage and Blue Damson, an early-bearing, small-fruited plum. Waneta is a late summer Japanese-American variety with large, red plums. Sapalta is considered one of the best to eat fresh from the tree but is also excellent for canning

Here is a link that might be useful: Plantalk Colorado 1206 - Plums

    Bookmark   May 20, 2008 at 1:19PM
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franktank232(z5 WI)

Just a thought, but wasn't Green Gage discussed on here in the past and was thought to have a long period of time before fruiting? Superior will fruit on year 2 or maybe year 1!

    Bookmark   May 20, 2008 at 1:33PM
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fredbram(z5 denver)

Thanks for your responses--I appreciate it. Many of these varieties require another plum for pollination--and we just don't have room for 2 trees. Superior, Greengage, Waneta and Sapalta all are self-sterile. I have read that Stanley is a better cooking plum than eating plum. Which leaves me with Italian Prune, Mount Royal or Santa Rosa as my main choices. I think Blue Damson is self fertile, but, again, I think of it as a cooking plum more tham an eating plum.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2008 at 3:27PM
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bboy(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Japanese and European plums are grown in this area, but because of different bloom dates, they will not pollinate each other. Plant two different European plums or two different Japanese plums in a landscape to ensure a crop

    Bookmark   May 20, 2008 at 4:10PM
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altadenamara

Lucky you! Have you thought of planting three or four trees in one hole for different plums ripening over a period of months? The space requirements are almost the same.
In your climate, you could probably grow any of the classic gourmet dessert plums described in BunyardÂs "The Anatomy of Dessert", or the wonderful heirloom varieties chosen for flavor rather than commercial shipping qualities, described in "The Plums of New York".
If you pay a few dollars extra for big, healthy trees, like the ones Raintree and Fruit of Antiquity sell, you donÂt have to wait as long for fruit. KirkÂs Blue, and the gages CoeÂs Golden Drop, Golden Transparent, and Purple Gage have fruited for me here their second year. My local nursery was able to find me a large Sugar prune, at my request, that fruited its first year, pollinating the other trees.
You have lots of possibilities. Lucky you!

Here is a link that might be useful: Plums of New York

    Bookmark   May 21, 2008 at 12:16PM
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ianb_co(5b)

In planting my back yard in Boulder, I wasn't able to find much info on plums on the front range (other than the CSU bulletin above), but chose some varieties based on late blooming to minimize risk of a late frost. (I took the blooming date info from Brogdale's plum database. Bloom dates seem to be about 2 weeks later here than at their location in England.) I ended up planting five plums, on 5' spacing:

Green Gage
Geneva Mirabelle
Shropshire Damson (for cooking)
Imperial Epineuse
Golden Transparent

Two others I'll probably graft in are Kirke's and Purple Gage (aka Reine Claude Violette). The trees only went in this year, so I can't tell you how long to setting fruit.

I purchased the trees from Cummins and One Green World; the OGW were more expensive (by $5-10 per tree) but are probably a full year ahead in size and growth.

Ian

    Bookmark   May 21, 2008 at 3:09PM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Ian, I think your 5' spacing is just about perfect for closely spaced European plums. I have mine in a zig-zag with 3' between each tree and am finding it too close. I have all the varieties you mention, they are all excellent ones. Along with the new ones you mention I would consider Coes Golden Drop -- a wonderful plum which I got fruit from last year for the first time. The Japanese-type plums are also good to keep in mind, they have a different kind of taste and texture and also a generally earlier harvest date. Most of them can be successfully grafted to European plum stock.

Scott

    Bookmark   May 22, 2008 at 6:12PM
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ianb_co(5b)

Fred - it occurs to me that you may not need to worry too much about having a pollenizer for your plum tree - in a lot of the older neighborhoods on the front range are tons of american plums and blue damson plums planted by the farmers and early homeowners, which will pollenize the european plums, and the newer developments have Hollywood and other decorative plums, which pollenize the japanese plums. So keep a eye out in your neighborhood and you may find that you don't need a self-fertile plum.

Scott - thanks once again for your advice - I've been thinking of the Coe's, but figured that the golden transparent and green gage were enough of the type - but what am I thinking - there's no such thing as too much of a good thing! Is there a way to find out what japanese plums are compatible for grafting onto european stock?

Ian

    Bookmark   May 22, 2008 at 11:20PM
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ianb_co(5b)

Correction: after double-checking, the americana plums (the pink & yellow plums often seen growing wild in Colorado) are pollenizers for japanese plums, but not european. (Source FA Waugh, Plums & Plum Culture, 1901(!) )

Ian

    Bookmark   May 23, 2008 at 1:21AM
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fredbram(z5 denver)

Thanks for all the help--I'm thinking about doing 2 trees in one hole. An Imperial Epineuse and something else--the Kirke's sounds quite tasty, but I can't find anyone who has one in stock, so maybe an Early Transparent. They are both supposed to be good pollenators for Imperial Epineuse.

I have looked around in our neighborhood (which is an old neighborhood) and don't know of any Damson's or other for pollenizing, but I'd be surprised if their wasn't one around.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2008 at 7:10AM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Ian, I don't know a way of finding out compatibility other than by doing it, it is uncommon to do so there is no reliable data. I have only done a couple such grafts and so far all are working.

Scott

    Bookmark   May 23, 2008 at 9:57PM
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Lesuko(5, Boulder CO)

@fredbram- I'm curious how your plum trees are doing if you did indeed plant 2 in one hole.

We're in Boulder and had read about backyard orchard culture when planting our fruit trees. Since our yards are small, it is a good idea, however after talking to a few fruit tree specialists, they ALL advised against it saying that this "trend" started in CA and they don't have the harsh windy winter weather that we get on the front range. So, we didn't try it.

However, our Green Gage that we bought from Cummins didn't survive. Since we have to get another plum, I'm wondering how yours are doing. We also thought we didn't need another plum tree for the Green Gage so I'll have to look into that again. If we can put 2 in one hole, that would be perfect.

How far apart did you plant them? Would love to hear an update.

L

    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 12:00PM
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milehighgirl(CO USDA 5B/Sunset 2B)

My grandfather (born in 1910) planted 4 apple trees in one hole. I didn't realize this until I inherited the property. I picked an apple from one side and then the other and I was shocked that they were different. Upon inspection I noticed that the bark was different on one side than the other. The trees were quite old and at the very least 40 years old. Unfortunately they were neglected for many years and when I hired someone to trim it I did not realize that I actually removed a whole cultivar. So, yes it can be done, and yes it does work. He had one in the front and one in the back yard.

I learned a new word, which I love to use: inosculate 1. to unite by openings, as arteries in anastomosis. 2. to connect or join so as to become or make continuous, as fibers; blend. 3. to unite intimately.

I should warn you that the day after I sold the property a strong wind storm blew one variety over completely, but it did have a long and productive life. Had I know this would happen I would have taken the tree out myself so I could document the inosculation of the trees.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 1:15PM
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olreader

Lesuko, I saw your posts in the Rocky Mountain forum about planting fruit trees a few years ago, how did they all do? I don't have much sunny space in my yard and didn't plant plums, maybe I should have (I'm in Longmont).

This wind has been non stop for 12+ hours and for most of the last four days. But I think the wind is mostly in fall, winter and spring, not when there are leaves on the trees.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 1:42PM
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milehighgirl(CO USDA 5B/Sunset 2B)

I forgot to mention that my neighbor has Santa Rosa and they are hardy enough here but because of the early blooming the tree only produces every few years. I bought a Green Gage and a multi-graft tree with hardy Japanese/American hybrids that also put out wonderful plums from Costco. I did not notice a drastic difference in bloom time between the two types. The only tree I never had a problem with was a Shropshire Damson. It bloomed very late. I decided to take it out and replace it with Inca because I wanted an eating plum instead of a canning.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 2:01PM
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Lesuko(5, Boulder CO)

@milehigh- thanks for the story. It's worth a try. I'll have to look up more info then on planting bare root trees together. However, your Japanese American hybrid tree sounds interesting- the best of both worlds... I didn't know Costco sold fruit trees. I may also look into multi-grated trees.

@olreader- we did plant fruit trees 2 years ago (I believe). With last year's late frost, not one bloomed. Supposedly, that's ok as we weren't going to let the trees fruit and instead let them funnel that energy to their roots for strength. So, I can't really say how they are doing- except that:
Green Gage- died almost instantly
North Star cherry- significant growth
Honeycrisp- little growth
Potomac and Seckle pear trees- little growth
New Haven and Elberta peach- significant growth

The peach trees are from Dave Wilson, Pears and plum from Cummins and others were local. I'm not sure if the nurseries make a difference but I'm very excited about peaches this year- IF we don't get a late frost.

I'm also going to plant in the ground a Chicago Hardy Fig tree this spring! I have an idea of how we might overwinter it- create a leaf insulating barrier with rebar and chicken wire, unless I can find a better way. I don't really care to dig a trench and bury the thing in our clay soil.

Oh, this reminds me, I'll probably post a question about netting the trees to keep the squirrels out. And also about kaolin clay on the apple tree to prevent coddling moths from laying their eggs- though I've read that it's too pricey for a non-farmer.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 5:12PM
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milehighgirl(CO USDA 5B/Sunset 2B)

Lesuko, I have had a Chicago Hardy in ground now for two winters. I checked on it this past weekend and it's doing fine. I planted it facing south about 2 feet from the foundation. In the fall I have entombed it in a cinder block bunker. So far so good. I didn't get any ripe figs last year but I realized too late that I needed to water it more and fertilize it. I have just discovered how fantastic figs are in that they are a temperate fruit that does go dormant. I have about 50 figs in my garage now, and also 1 pomegranate.

The leaf protection can work too but I had a bad experience with mice and lost nearly $1000.00 worth of fruiting plants a few years ago. If you were to use leaves you would be better to protect the tree with hardware cloth first.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 7:55PM
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olreader

In December I was thinking about planting a few currant or other fruit bushes but after reading this forum I was inspired and when it was warm in January I planted two peaches (Redhaven and Q-1-8) and two apricots (Harcot and Chinese). My back yard doesn't get full sun but I have ordered two pawpaws, two persimmons, two serviceberries, a mulberry and a Negronne/Violette de Bordeaux fig that I plan to grow in a pot.

Hope you get a good spring this year.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 8:06PM
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Lesuko(5, Boulder CO)

Milehighgirl- 50 fig trees? I wish I had your land. I never would have though pomegranates would grow here. Thanks for the heads up on the mice. I'll line the inside with hardware cloth. We're in a Boulder lot so I don't think we can get away with cinder blocks in our front yard, which faces west. I hope it will be enough sun in the winter. Do you think if I place some big rocks at the base it could help keep the roots warm enough to survive winter? Or, is it really not needed?

@olreader- I planted currants and gooseberries around our apple tree- about a 4'circumference off the center. I had intended to make an apple tree guild but my indecisiveness has prevented any further "guilding". I'm curious about pawpaws. I've just learned they can grow here but I've never tasted one. I would almost get one but I want to use the space for either honeyberries or hardy kiwi. I'm running out of space! I would try the Violette de Bordeaux fig but we don't have a place to overwinter it. Would love to hear how your fruits are doing. I'm also curious about serviceberries. However, I decided to plant elderberries last year. It's great to plant fruits you can't find in a store or at a farmers market!

    Bookmark   February 19, 2014 at 2:46PM
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olreader

I planted my first trees in January so I don't think I'll get fruit this year, I just hope they grow. Maybe I will get some figs if I'm lucky. I will let you know.

Back to plums--I'm not brave enough yet to put an orchard in my west facing front yard, I want something more discreet. I thought of a weeping Santa Rosa plum, but they are listed as less hardy than standard Santa rosa (zone 6 vs 5). Maybe I will try it anyway. Longmont is 5b and I think Boulder and Denver are 6a. I lived in Boulder before, and Longmont definitely has a hotter, colder, drier climate compared to Boulder. Probably less hail though, but we still get plenty of wind.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2014 at 8:50PM
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milehighgirl(CO USDA 5B/Sunset 2B)

olreader, Boulder looks to be 5a and Longmont 5b. I don't think there is anywhere in Colorado that is a 6 except the western slope. Because Colorado has such high altitude the sun is more intense here. I have found that Green Gage is outstanding here.

Lesuko, I have less than 1/4 acre. My figs are in pots and are stored in my garage in the winter. I have found figs to be my new addiction. Since they go dormant in the winter they can be brought in, and unlike other subtropical or temperate fruits they can handle the cold while dormant. I did a little "decorating" to my fig bunker and put an air conditioning cover over it. Since it is right next to the foundation it sort of blends in. You could also put something decorative in front, even lattice would make it blend in more.

Here is a link that might be useful: Colorado Interactive USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map for Gardening

    Bookmark   February 19, 2014 at 10:15PM
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gregkdc

I know for Utah one of the best plums you can grow is elephant heart. I think it is pollinated by Santa Rosa as well so maybe you could putt the pair in the same hole? just a thought.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 10:16AM
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milehighgirl(CO USDA 5B/Sunset 2B)

For some reason I have not had a single Elephant Heart from my tree planted 5 years ago (of course 2 of those years we had late frosts). I think this particular tree may take longer to come into bearing. It also ripens at the end of summer. If it's like peaches, the better ones seem to ripen the latest. My one fruit, that I was waiting for with great expectation, was stolen by coons right before it was ripe. Those buggers even broke a branch.

Yes, it is hardy enough but it also is one of the early bloomers. I can't bear to part with it though. Hopefully my patience will pay off.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 2:14PM
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gregkdc

MHG don't give up on the tree just yet. My grandma used to have an old elephant heart plum that made large almost baseball sized fruit with dark purple/red flesh and a very strong plum flavor without much acidity, they were awesome! Make sure it has a compatible pollinator I know this can be a problem with them.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 4:02PM
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RSivulka(6b)

BTW, Costco has a great return policy! I took my multi-grafted pear back after a couple years when it showed signs of fire-blight! No questions asked. I've gotten a number of trees from Costco, and they're super cheap! So far, minus the pear, all are doing quite well.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2015 at 5:36PM
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