Best plums of 2016- Northeast report

Hitting -12F the first week of March and 17 the last week- when J. plums were in bloom, certainly changes the criterion of what are the best performing plums. J. plums were wiped out at most sites, even though the later blooming J’s appeared fine when in bloom and I didn’t find browned ovaries. I have a few scarred Shiros on my own tree, but not enough for any kind of celebration. At a few other sites it is the same, no other varieties held fruit and Shiro might have an almost meaningless scattering. I actually lost some Satsuma and Black Amber trees to cold in the nursery, not sure which event did them in.

The Euro plums SEEMED entirely unaffected by the cold events, with normal bloom. But not that much held on the trees with one big and important exception- Empress is actually going to require a lot of thinning. In my nursery with Bluebyrds, Castletons, Valors, Green Gages also in the mix, I can tell the Empress from afar because they are all loaded with fruit.

Empress is a big prune plum that gets very sweet and good, but I never favored it because Valor seems just a bit sweeter- last year Valor topped at about 23 where Empress didn’t get past 20. But because of my preference for Valor, it enjoys a somewhat sunnier spot, so this all might be meaningless- they are very similar plums.

I’ve known for a long time it was at least nearly my most reliable plum, but until this year, Castleton was its equal in that department. Empress is a superior plum to Castleton in size and I also like the tree better. Castleton is a little too dwarfing and hard to shape nicely.

Incidentally, Autumn Sweet also has a good crop this year, but it had none the last and so far seems inconsistent, even if it did well this year. Valor, Green Gage, Castleton, Long John and Italian all had some crop, but much much less than Empress.


Thanks for the plum report, my Burbank is hurting after this past winter, with most limbs not fully leafing out…maybe it knew that it was on the chopping block! I look forward to your harvest review.

I had a similar phenomenon which also varied by variety: it looked good until the small fruitlets all dropped off. This happened mainly with the Euros, the Japanese failures just didn’t produce fruitlets at all, the flowers were empty. All my Gage plums dropped nearly all; the prune types generally did well.

Not a good peach, plum or apple year for me. Cherries yes, and maybe pears. Big berries this year I hope.

I have just noticed that my big Satsuma plum orchard tree has been likely killed- still in leaf but not growing so I’m 99% sure it is a goner from cambium kill as a result of one or the other event. The variety is just on the cusp of survivability here, it seems. I’m in Z6, about 40 miles N. of NYC- too far from the Hudson or the Atlantic to be protected. I also lost several small trees transplanted form the nursery.

I have two Satsumas. Flower buds got killed but the trees look good so far. One is 4 yrs. old, the other is 3 yrs. old.

I have probably 30 in my nursery and the one I’m talking about was my first of two in my orchard. The other orchard tree is fine. A couple in the nursery were killed but all the rest look great. The dead Satsuma seemed to have weakened last growing season- it sent up long healthy new shoots, but the existing wood didn’t have the usual leaf size or vigor. Maybe it was originally wounded by the previous winter.

I also have an Emerald Beaut plum that appears to be dying in my orchard. This is it’s third year and it started to suffer after its first winter.

my trees are also really bad, the winter was very warm and the trees have accumulated a few hours of cold this has caused the trees sprout very slow and spring has come a few days of very cold that has killed many flowers and several young trees have died from the cold that reached them when they began to sprout (2 weeks ago I had to start a cherry Skeena).

My two oldest apricot trees just up and died. Tomcot and Moorpark. Dead as doornails. Heartbreaking.

I think @Appleseed70 met similar frustration trying to grow them, and gave up. Cots must not like the Appalachians.

As I have often said, apricots are fragile trees- fluctuating temps can be the death of them in humid regions. But they are impossible to predict. They are not productive on my property but rarely die, at other sites where they produce very well and grow better they occasionally die- but I never know coming out of winter where there might be fatalities- it often comes at seemingly favored sites.


Odd about Apricots. Here in the Rocky Mountain foothills, Apricots are tough cookies. They normally get shut out in fruiting but are nearly xeric and even naturalize a little near drainage areas—unheard of with any other commonly grown fruit.

I wonder if its rootstock related? Maybe these trees should all be on apricot roots? I still have my Puget Gold on K86 and its going strong after 7 or 8 years.

I have to admit, I had to look up the definition of “xeric”. I’d heard the term before, bit when reading your post couldn’t quite ring up the def. If that’s true, that would explain their dislike for the Appalachians. Here they are easily the biggest pain in the arse you could possibly plant. I don’t even like them much.

I was not familiar with the use of the word either. In hort-school the word used was xerophyte and I’m guessing xeric simply wasn’t a word 3j0 years ago- at least one used in biology books. Now it is very fashionable amongst western garden writers judging from a search I just did.

Maybe xeric’s current definition covers apricots, but their issues are different than other plants defined by this word, which seems to be plants that require less water to survive or survive in environments with less water (via an aggressive growing, very deep tap root). Apricots seem to survive better close to the coast and further south in the east even when there’s plenty of year round precip.

I don’t think the problem is rootstock because often the rootstock survives after the death of the scion’s tree.

I’ve often commented on the apricots that are naturalized in the high desert of New Mexico, where extreme cold occurs that doesn’t kill them as well as very fluctuating temps. Maybe the dryness of fall there helps them harden off better. It is excessive water in the cells that causes plants to die in extreme weather. Cells expand, rupture and die.

Appleseed, have you ever tasted a tree ripened apricot? They are very sweet and good ones are not mushy like what you get from the store.

Between different rootstocks, there might be some variation in the amount of water being pushed to the apricot. The difference, however, might not be enough to provide a satisfactory solution to the problem. Water restriction during the cold months might be the only way to solve the problem.

I’m surprised that ‘Xeric’ is such a regionalism. It’s in common usage out west, not just with gardeners.

There’s a naturalized Apricot growing in a park near me that has grown into a healthy, 10-11 foot tall tree all during the worst drought since the 1880s with no discernible source of water other than being an a slight downslope. If I were the kind of guy who could graft things I would try and propagate it.

Has something to do with their Mongolian heritage, I think.

Yeah maybe it is a xeric- xerophyte refers to different drought coping mechanisms, I believe- like cactus and succulents. However, I planted unwatered almond trees in Topanga Canyon and the trees survived some terrible drought years without access to ground water that I could imagine- maybe just being on the side of a hill roots created a well.

The idea of less water helping them (and, too much water when its cold hurting them) seems to fit with the data. The temps greatly fluctuate in spring in the west and I can’t think of any other major difference.

Going into last winter in Sept and Oct we had half our normal rainfall but lots of cambium killed apricots, but that may still be too much water. My soil doesn’t hold a lot of water and I don’t lose many apricots in my nursery here, but other sites with virtual sand do.

We can only guess, I guess. Does Sante Fe ever get soaking rain in late summer? I think it does.

1st year from Raintree bare root our Parfume De Septembre plum blossom ( Seattle 4.17.17)