Plum Trees for Home Gardens
Plums have to be one of the world’s most popular back yard fruit trees and for good reason. Not only are the trees themselves tough as old boots, surviving drought, winds and extremes of both hot and cold, but they also produce such wonderfully delicious, versatile fruit. Sweet, juicy plums are high in vitamin C and loaded with dietary fibre. They can be dried into roughage-rich prunes or bottled or stewed to have with porridge for breakfast. Their high pectin content makes them an excellent fruit for quick and easy jam making, and after 3-5 years the trees will be producing more than enough for all of the above.
European Vs Japanese Plums
The two most commonly grown types of plums are European and Japanese. Choosing to grow one over the other should primarily be decided according to climate, with individual varieties then being chosen according to what the fruits are mainly to be used for. European plums such as Green Gages, Coe’s Golden Drops and Damsons are better suited to colder temperate regions as they require some winter chilling to fruit well, although Damsons are often an exception to this rule. Japanese plums such as Santa Rosa, Satsuma and Mariposa on the other hand need less chilling and their blooms can be damaged by frosts so they are better suited to warm temperate climates. In addition to climatic requirements, Japanese plums tend to be larger and juicier whereas European plums are smaller with a higher sugar content.
Choosing Pairs of Plum Trees for Pollination
Most varieties of plum trees need or fruit better when grown alongside a compatible cultivar. If there is only room in the garden for one plum tree, then a self-fertile variety needs to be planted such as Santa Rosa, Italian or Damson. Japanese and European plums won’t pollinate one another, and not all cultivars are compatible so check with the nursery to ensure an appropriate match.
Popular Varieties of Plum Trees for Home Gardens
Coes Golden Drop: A large, juicy, yellow European plum with beautiful flavour when left to ripen on the tree. The versatile fruit is suitable for fresh fruit, drying and jam. The tree itself grows to approximately 4 x 4 metres (13 feet) if unpruned, and can be pollinated by most common European cultivars including Greengage, Damson and d’Agen.
Damson Plum: A small, sweet and slightly tart, dark purple plum that is suitable for drying and makes fantastic plum jam. The tree is self-fertile and bears well under a range of conditions.
Plum d’Agen: An oval shaped plum with purple skin and sweet, yellow flesh that is delicious raw but also well suited to drying. It is a heavy bearing tree that can be pollinated by Coe’s Golden Dro and Green Gage trees.
Green Gages: Named after Sir Thomas Gage, Green Gages are small, green to yellow fruits that are exceptionally sweet and delicious raw off the tree. The trees need cool temperatures during winter to fruit well and can be pollinated by Coe’s Golden Drop and Prune d’Agen.
Mariposa Plum: A Japanese blood plum with large, sweet and juicy heart-shaped fruit that can b eaten fresh or is also suitable for jam and stewing. The tree is tolerant of a range of conditions and can be pollinated by the Japanese plum tree ‘Satsuma’.
Plumcotts: Plumcott trees are actually a plum and apricot hybrid that produces delicious fruit and is especially resistant to both frosts and fruit flies. They can be pollinated by the Japanese ‘Mariposa’.
Satsuma: Satsuma Plum Trees produce medium sized, deep crimson coloured fruits with juicy yellow flesh. The trees are partially self-pollinating but will crop better when paired with a pollinator such as the Japanese ‘Santa Rosa’ which is also an excellent variety.
Speak to the staff at a nearby nursery, or search online for a fruit tree purveyor that can give advice on suitable varieties for the local climate. Plant one or two trees in a sunny spot in the garden, water regularly until they are well established and prune out any crowded branches, then sit back and be amazed by the baskets of sun-ripened fruit they repay the grower with in only a few years time.