Green gage plum tree

Green Gage Plum Tree

Don’t let the color fool you, the standard for plum quality since the 17th century, Green Gage Plum is one of a group of classic and highly prized European Plum varieties. Green Gage bears large crops of yellowish green, juicy, firm and tender, oval fruit . Very sweet and richly flavorful, Green Gage Plum is great for fresh eating, baking, preserves, and canning. Furthermore, the green color keeps the neighborhood kids from stealing all your fruit because most people are used to plums being green AND ripe. What a treat this plum is.

Latin Name: Prunus x domestica
Site and Soil: Plums like 1/2 day to full sun and well-drained soil.
Rootstock Description: A semi-dwarf rootstock for Plums and other stone fruits, Marianna produces trees 10′-12′ in height or less.
Pollination Requirements: Green Gage is partially self-fertile. Plant with another European variety like, Mirabelle for better crops.
Hardiness: Plums are hardy to minus 30° F.
Bearing Age: 2-3 years after planting
Size at Maturity: 10-12 ft. in height.
Bloom Time: Late March
Ripening Time: August
Yield: 50+ lbs.
Pests & Diseases: Our plums are not bothered by pests. Bacterial Canker can occasionally damage trunks or branches. Symptoms of this disease are exudations of amber-colored sap. Spraying lime-sulfur or copper in the fall and early spring can help control Bacterial Canker.
USDA Zone: 4
Sunset Western Zone: 2-12, 14-18
Sunset Northeast Zone: Not stated

What Is A Green Gage Plum – How To Grow A Green Gage Plum Tree

There are about 20 commercially available varieties of plum, each with varying degrees of sweetness and colors ranging from deep purple to blushed rose to golden. The one plum you will likely not find for sale comes from Green Gage plum trees (Prunus domestica ‘Green Gage’). What is a Green Gage plum and how do you grow a Green Gage plum tree? Read on to find out about growing Green Gage plums and Green Gage plum care.

What is a Green Gage Plum?

Compact Green Gage plum trees produce fruit that is sublimely sweet. They are a naturally occurring hybrid of the European plum, Prunus domestica and P. insititia, a species that includes Damsons and Mirabelles. During the reign of King Francis I, the trees were brought to France and named after his queen, Claude.

The trees were then imported into England in the 18th century. The tree was named for Sir William Gage of Suffolk, whose gardener had imported a tree from France but lost the label. A favorite plum since Jefferson’s presidency, Green Gages were included in

his famous garden at Monticello and extensively cultivated and studied there.

The trees bear small to medium sized, oval, yellowish-green fruit with a smooth skin, juicy taste and freestone flesh. The tree is self-fertile, small with low branches and a rounded habit. The honey-plum flavor of the fruit lends itself well to canning, desserts, and preserves as well as eaten fresh and dried.

How to Grow a Green Gage Plum Tree

Green Gage plums can be grown in USDA zones 5-9 and thrive in regions with sunny, hot summers combined with cool nights. Growing Green Gage plums is much the same as growing other plum tree cultivars.

Plant bare-root Green Gages in early winter when the tree is dormant. Container grown trees can be planted any time during the year. Situate the tree in a sheltered, sunny area of the garden with well-draining, fertile soil. Dig a hole that is as deep as the root system and wide enough to allow the roots to spread out. Take care not to bury the scion and rootstock connection. Water the tree in well.

Green Gage Plum Care

As fruit begins to form in mid-spring, thin it by removing any damaged or diseased fruit first and then any others that will allow the remaining to grow to full size. In another month or so, check for any overcrowding and, if need be, remove additional fruit. The goal is to thin the fruit 3-4 inches (8-10 cm.) apart. If you fail to thin plum trees, the branches become to laden with fruit which, in turn, may damage the branches and encourage disease.

Prune the plum trees in the late spring or early summer.

Green Gage plums will be ready for harvest from late summer into early fall. They are prolific producers and may produce so extensively in a single year that they don’t have enough energy to fruit the successive year, so it’s advisable to take advantage of a bumper crop of sweet, ambrosial Green Gages.

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PLANT OF THE WEEK: ‘Green Gage’ plum / Plain plum crazy over the ‘Green Gage’

July in my orchard is plum time. This year I am raving about the ‘Green Gage’ plum tree. It bears fruit every year. There are no resting years, no recovery from radical pruning years, no years when the blossoms don’t set fruit. It is self-pollinating. The tree remains compact and has never needed severe pruning.

Cultivation and harvesting: The ‘Green Gage’ plum is an easy, low- maintenance fruit tree. It is productive in moderate winter climates, which makes it particularly suitable to the Bay Area. The golden yellow plums, which blush to a lovely rose color as they fully ripen, are never available in markets. It is the one fruit tree I would choose if I could have only one.

This yellow-fleshed fruit is juicy and very rich in flavor. A honeyed taste explosion occurs when you bite into one. They are beautiful to observe as they turn from greenish-yellow to golden yellow and, finally, when fully ripe, a rose blush appears on the surface of the fruit. A basketful of ‘Green Gages’ with their color variegation is a delight I can’t resist photographing. A friend who makes woodblock prints used my photographs of these plums in a handwoven harvest basket to do a wood cut. She called it “Plum Crazy.” I think she was referring to the state of my kitchen when both the ‘Santa Rosa’ and the ‘Green Gage’ plums are having bountiful years.

This year my ‘Santa Rosa’ plum tree has no fruit, probably because it was pruned back dramatically last winter. It had gone several years without being pruned and was long overdue for a good reshaping. The longest scaffold branches were cut back several feet to encourage fruiting spurs to develop lower down. The center was opened up for better air and sun, and next year I will likely be raving about all the luscious, juicy red plums I am harvesting for jam and chutney.

It is indeed merciful that the fruit trees don’t yield the maximum every year. Just enough or plum crazy, it doesn’t faze “jam man,” a nickname I gave my husband several years ago. All he needs is a handful of plums and he’s off and jamming. If both trees are productive, it becomes his challenge to jam it all. I have no complaints. Plum jam is my favorite. Pints of it make great gifts. I believe in sharing the bounty when it’s fresh. My inclination is to give bags of tree-ripened plums to people I encounter in my day-to-day activities during the plum harvest. I have one friend who reminds me when it’s time for her bag of plums.

History: ‘Green Gage’ is the English name for a group of plums derived originally from a European plum that set fruit in clusters. There are many varieties of ‘Green Gages.’ They all have firm yellow flesh and a characteristic, delicious honeyed flavor. I purchased mine as a bare root whip many years ago. It was labeled as a ‘Green Gage,’ but I suspect that it may actually be a ‘Yellow Gage.’ It certainly isn’t a ‘Purple Gage,’ though there is such a plum.

The ‘Green Gage’ was named after Sir Thomas Gage. His brother sent him root stock from France early in the 18th century. The labels on the trees were lost. It is said that his gardener chose the name. The original type is thought to have come from Armenia.

Flavor: The taste of my ‘Green Gage’ plum (when it has fully ripened) reminds me of the taste of a fine well-balanced sweet German Trockenbeerenauslese. The balance of honey sweetness to acid is mimicked perfectly in this plum. For originality in taste and beauty in appearance, this plum is a winner.

Plums

The late summer bounty. Photo – photolibrary,com

As if the beautiful spring blossom of the plum were not enough to make it a lovely small tree choice for the home garden, it also deliver splump juicy fruit for eating, stewing, bottling, drying and cooking.

The only question is which plum to plump for.

Linda Ross considers the options.

Position

Plums like an open, sunny spot with well-drained soil. Add organic matter or animal manure to improve the fertility and structure of the soil and if soils are heavy clay, build up the level of topsoil to ensure good drainage.

Growing Guide

Before planting prune damaged roots and cut roots back to 20 cm. Trim limbs to an outward-pointing bud approximately 30 cm from the trunk. After planting create a depression around the plant to act as a watering basin. Water well and keep moist during summer until well established.

Allow for a maximum spread of 4m x 4m so the canopy can broaden without crowding. An open vase shape is best to increase sunlight exposure and fruit production. Alternatively, plums can be trained onto a north-facing fence or frame.

Pests and Diseases

Watch for birds and net as needed. We use four timber stakes placed around the tree and linked by sections of poly pipe over the top of the tree. Netting is draped over the top and secured into the soil around the tree with tent pegs. Put out fruit fly traps before fruit ripens and patrol with vigilance. We recommend OCP’s Eco-natralure during fruiting.

Varieties

Plums come in two main types, Japanese (originally Chinese) and European. The Japanese plum (Prunus salicina) is one of the best stone fruits for warmer and coastal areas: blood plums and yellow-fleshed plums are among its many delicious cultivars. The European plum (Prunus domestica) needs winter chill and produces slightly smaller fruit than the Japanese varieties.

Most types require cross-pollination, so choose wisely if you have room for only one tree.

SANTA ROSA is considered one of the best plums, with large, high-quality fruit, purplish-crimson in colour with a pale blue bloom. The yellow flesh is mildly sweet, with some tartness near skin and stone.

DAMSON or DAMASK PLUM is self-fertile and also pollinates with Mariposa. Requires winter chill and is excellent in cold climates.

GREEN GAGE and its sister YELLOW GAGE have firm flesh and skin, even when ripe. These European plums are freestone, with amber-yellow flesh and a good, sweet flavour, favoured for cooking. They tend to bear biannually, ripen in late summer and can be pollinated with d’Agen, the plum dried to make prunes.

PLUMCOT and PLUOT are trademark names for a complex cross between plums and apricots which exhibit more plum that apricot characteristics. The Plumcot ‘Spring Satin’ can be purchased from Daley’s Fruit Tree Nursery.

SATSUMA has red to purple flesh with a freestone. The flavour is good, the growth vigorous and it bears particularly well; in fact to get large fruits it may require thinning. Self-pollinating.

MARIPOSA is a popular blood plum with large, heart-shaped fruit with very dark red, sweet, juicy flesh. Sweeter, larger and softer than ‘Satsuma’. Suitable for small to medium gardens.

Tips and Tricks

Unless you choose self-fertile varieties, two plum trees will increase pollination and therefore fruiting. Check with your supplier regarding compatibility.

Ideally the fruit should be picked off for the first three years to allow the tree to establish a good branching framework.

Plumcots should be pruned when young to establish a strong framework, then annually to keep tidy and maintain a height of approximately 2m.

Irrigate when required. Mulch to retain soil moisture and control weeds.

Where to buy

Fleming’s Nursery, www.flemings.com.au

Daley’s Fruit Tree Nursery, www.daleysfruit.com.au

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