Plums

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Unripe Victoria Plums Unripe Victoria Plums

Plums come in a variety of shapes and sizes and colours. From deep purple damsons, to bright yellow gages, these easy to grow fruit are delicious, and provide year round interest in the garden. They have bright blossom in the spring and colourful fruit in summer.  They are also expensive to buy in supermarkets making them well worth growing in the garden or on the allotment.

Introduced to Britain from France in the 15th century, Plums became a British staple, but then for some reason, most likely due to their unreliability many were replaced for other crops during the Second World War. That said there are plenty of choices for the fruit gardener, and overall they are an exceptionally easy tree to grow, and are expensive to buy in store, so well worth growing if you have space.

Growing Plums

Plums flower very early in the year and so are very prone to frost.  This can often mean irregular cropping from season to season, but with some careful planning the risk of frost damage can be reduced.

They should be planted in a high position away from any frost pockets, or even better train them as a fan against a south facing wall (the wall will absorb heat during the day, and then release this at night protecting the tree from any mild frost.) Another advantage to a fan trained plum is the ease in which you can net the plums from birds later in the season.

Plum Tree Rootstock

Plums are usually grown on a St Julien A rootstock, but others are available such as:

  • Pixy – Produces a smaller mature bush of 10-15ft, but requires good soil and near perfect growing conditions – not recommended for the north of the country.
  • Myrobalan B – Usually too vigorous for ordinary gardens
  • Brompton – matures to fruit quickly, but is much more vigorous
  • Mussel – produces a much more compact tree.
  • Citation – Semi dwarfing rootstock suitable for poor soils.

St Julien A is one of the best choices for a garden or allotment, and produces good results even if conditions are less than perfect.

Plum Tree Pollination Groups

Plums have similar pollination groups to pears.  They are usually self-fertile, but if you choose trees that require pollination then choose two within the same pollination group.

More importantly for plums is to choose varieties that are suitable for the local climate.  Personally I don’t recommend any that fall into pollination group A (Early flowering) for any part of the UK, and if you live up north, stick to those in the C category (Late Flowering)

  • A – Early Flowering
  • B – Mid Seasnon Flowering
  • C- Late Flowering

Training and Tree shapes

Plums are usually grown either as a fan tree, or a bush tree.  They are not suitable for growing as espaliers and cordons.

If you have a south facing wall then I highly recommend growing as a fan against this wall, otherwise grow as a standard bush (this is how mine is growing on the allotment.)

Propagating Plum Trees

Plum trees are best propagated from cuttings and then grafted onto the appropriate rootstock – usually St Julien A.

Plum Varieties

Plums fall into a number of different categories.  Select the type of plum you are looking for and then scour the catalogues for the variety that best fits your needs (and don’t forget to bear in mind the pollination group!)

Type

Description

Dessert Plum

Sweet Plums perfect for eating fresh. Victoria is a great variety of sweet plum (and one of my favourites)

Culinary Plum

This is a rather tart version, that requires cooking

Gage

Yields tend to be  lower, however these are one of the sweetest varieties, and if you have the space I highly recommend these (make great wine too!)

Bullace

Very sharp flavour used for cooking.  Very small fruit

Damson

Spicy and tart flavour, great for making jams, liqueurs and wine.

Mirabelle

Similar to the Bullace, but sweeter

Phyl @ The Allotment Gardener

Lifelong gardener and allotment enthusiast. Now have 3 allotments!

Website: allotment.uk.com
More in this category: « Pears Raspberries »
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