OK, I live in South Georgia, near Savannah, and have found it very hard to keep plum trees alive for more than a couple of years apart from Chickasaw plum varieties and Mariana which is a root stock typically used for European plums that does have good but small fruit. I have not found the Au series plums or the Byron series plums to do any better than the traditional dissert plums from California with the exception of Robusto which I got from Just Fruits and Exotics in South Florida. If you were going to try an grow plums further south in Alabama I would be saying get Guthrie, Robusto, Excelsior and a few other mostly Chickasaw varieties that should do OK. Down here I think lots can be said for trying to get trees on their own roots. Most Asian and commercially available Chickasaw plums are on peach roots. That’s to avoid suckering as much as anything else. But in a climate where stem canker is a big problem, suckering is good. You have a constant supply of baby tries that you can start somewhere else should the big tree get sick. In addition, peach trees only live about ten years where as a plum tree that avoids disease lives 20 to 30 years on its own root. Grafting a plum onto a peach root guarantees that the tree will fall about 20 years short of its lifespan potential. God bless.
I’m in SC and I’ve grown just about all of the AU varieties and Rubrum
is the best one, by far, and the only one that I would recommend. The rest are
mediocre at best. I’d also recommend Santa Rosa, as it does well in the South and will cross pollinate with Rubrum, and you’ll get tremendous fruit set from both trees. Cumberland Valley and Vaughn’s sell both trees far cheaper than anyone else, and you’ll get reliable and healthy stock from both nurseries.
Plums vary widely in taste, and you need to decide what your taste preferences are, before you buy anything. Do not buy Methley, because it does not do well in the South. Here, it’s considered to be a junk plum.
This is a picture of my Santa Rosa from a few years back.
Of course, as I recall Ray doesn’t thin his plums and Methely tends to over set and create small tasteless fruit. I can’t imagine it not producing sweet good fruit when adequately thinned, but it’s certainly possible. Other southern growers on this forum have a positive take on Methely. To me, here it is mediocre but still quite tasty for such an early fruit, I have one site, one tree that actually produces significantly higher quality fruit than any other site I manage, including my own orchard.
Here quality of any given variety can vary quite a bit site to site, regardless of management, as far as I can tell.
I’ve got Guthrie and Odom Chickasaw plums in West Central Georgia, and so far I’m happy with both. They’ve been very vigorous, so far disease free, and produced some decent but not great fruit in their second year. I’m tempted to add another similar tree. Would you recommend Robusto, Excelsior, Segundo, Bruce, or something else? I’ve also been tempted by Ozark Premier, which is rated as very disease resistant Ashspublications.org (thanks @Ozymandias for that link).
My Robusto produces very, very large plums. It’s in it’s 5th year and appears very healthy so far. In 2015 I had a limb breaking crop that was kind of tart and had that strong Chickasaw aftertaste. It bloomed with Santa Rosa which was taken out by stem canker that summer. This past year, the only compatible pollinizer for it was a young Chickasaw plum that was past down through my family. That tree was a four year old tree from a root sucker from my Aunt’s yard. Last year it only had a few flowers. Bees don’t like plum flowers much for some reason, and if conditions aren’t perfect for attracting pollinators it just does not happen very well. So in 2016 I got a few plums from Robusto and the heirloom Chickasaw, but the Robusto plums were way better for fresh eating than the year before and well over 2 inches across. Yes I recommend Robusto. Of my plums, it makes the best rosemary plum jam for glazing or garnishing meats.
My Robusto is grafted unfortunately, so I don’t have suckers. My heirloom Chickasaw plum has several suckers around it that need new homes. I have no idea what variety it is, but its fruit ripen in late June. My aunt’s tree was over 25 years old when it died. A root sucker is growing in its place in her yard. The adult trees do get taken out by stem canker, but the suckers seem to mature and produce just fine after that happens in wild Chickasaw Plum fashion. It is by far the latest of my plums to ripen and does not start ripening fruit until both Mariana (early) and Robusto (mid season) are completely finished.
It’s a mild soft Chickasaw plum with ping pong sized fruit. The trees my dad had when I was a kid produced huge limb binding crops every year. They are quite soft when ripe, sweet and mild. They are kind of orangey on the outside and greenish yellow inside. The biggest critique I have about this strain is that the flowers come and go over about a three day period. The good thing is that it blooms right in the middle of when Robusto blooms, and Robusto blooms for a week or so. If the weather is bad and the bees aren’t flying those two or three days that the heirloom Chickasaw is blooming, I’m out of luck for that year for both trees. But if someone wants a sucker, I think I have about five or six. Note, this tree gets big fast and won’t bloom much until its 15 or 20 ft tall. That makes it hard to spray for plum curculios and such.
Oh, last note about Robusto. Plum curculios don’t seem don’t seem to like it as much as the other plums which is a very big plus in my book. God bless.
I’m sure location impacts the flavor of fruit, but I’m guessing personal preference is a key factor too. Methley is a soft plum, but if someone likes them firm, they may not be impressed. But for sure, there are few fruits where flavor and texture varies so much between types. God bless.
Over the years, it’s been my experience that plums don’t need thinning
in order to produce large fruit. That’s why I don’t thin them, and I still get
large fruit. I wish I could say the same for peaches.
That may be true but at some point they need thinning in order to produce good tasting fruit. I’d rather have X lbs of great fruit than 2X lbs of average or poor fruit. Others might have different needs like lots of hungry mouths to feed.
And then there is matter of limb breakage. Your Santa Rosa isn’t as overloaded as some I’ve seen in CA. But it’s near the breaking point esp in the event of some adverse event like high winds and/or heavy rain.
I thin all stone fruit besides cherries, but even them I thin by pruning spurs. The fruit is much larger and more flavorful as a result. Last year I failed to adequately thin my Empress plums- I was not very attentive because the crop was so bad overall, but the Empress bore well. The sugar was much lower than normal and I highly regretted my negligence. On a year where there was so little to thin, I should have made sure what crop there was was as good as possible.
Of course, the sun in the northeast pales in comparison to yours.
I have posted about this on this forum before but I feel like no other variety gets such a mixed bag of reviews as the Methley plum. Not just on this forum either. I have read a number of accounts from Texas growers that vary so widley that at times its hard to believe people are describing the same piece of fruit. Some claim the fruit is amazing and others say it isnt worth growing. Could there be another plum of lesser quality and similar ripening time that could be getting mixed up with Methley? I know location and culture make quality vary but man the reports are way different on this one.
It could have to do with the texture. I don’t care for the soft runny plums. Also I’d say some leave so much fruit on the yrs it doesn’t freeze out that it has little sugar. I grew a big tree once and only managed one crop in Amarillo. The fruit wasn’t good enough to remember and the tree got replaced.
I have also heard it has a short window when it is good. Within 2 weeks of being ripe it is suppose to form a jelly like texture. But I agree, it does seem to have the most varied reviews of any plum. My first year it was a very mild flavored plum, but better than most store bought.
Methley was never a good producer for me in the five years that I grew
it, even though it’s supposed to be self fertile and a good pollinator for
other plums. There was never much fruit to thin and the plums that I did get were small and tasteless. It was surrounded by other plums, so pollination was never a problem.
It is not a small plum when it sets few fruit here or even when properly thinned- just about average size- a little smaller than Shiro but same a Satsuma, I’d say. That would mean smaller than Santa Rosa to you.
I live in 7b and Methley was my go to plum. I found thinning improved size but not flavor. The get over ripe fast. I preferred them on the green side and found them good in various stages of under ripe. My tree was about 20 years old and was in decline when it was over come by black knot. It is more susceptible to it than others.
I have a friend who grows Ozark premier here in south east misouri, it does very well, really big plums, the taste is desent, just not as good as santa rosa, which usually doesn’t set that we’ll here. Methely does very well here and tastes good.
It it the typhoid Marry of plums and black knot. At some sites it is almost impossible to grow at all because of this, but it is the hardiest red-fleshed J. plum I grow. It is seemingly as hardy as Shiro. Santa Rosa, Queen Rosa, Satsuma, Black Amber, and Ruby Queen have all shown susceptibility to cambium damage from cold at my Z6 site. I don’t know if it occurs in winter or spring. Dapple Dandy and Emerald Beaut both died at my site from this.