by Bob Purvis
In 1993 I planted a Meteor tart cherry on a Mazzard rootstock and in 1994, a Baird pie cherry, grafted from the tree in Bill Baird’s yard in Anchorage. This year I had the opportunity to watch closely as both trees set a good crop of cherries and ripened them. Alongside the Meteor and the Baird are bearing trees of Montmorency, Mesabi, and NY 13272 pie cherry (and a non-bearing tree of Bali cherry, a.k.a. Evans, from St. Lawrence Nurseries). I can now (July 14, 1996) report that the fruit on both trees is ripe at the same time (about a week after Montmorency and NY 13272). The fruit is identical in appearance, size, and flavor; and the two trees seem to be the same in productivity, resistance of blossoms to killing frosts at bloom, and growth character. Therefore, I tentatively conclude that Bill Baird’s tree is probably a Meteor, and unlikely that it is a Mahaleb or Mazzard seedling of superior quality.
Growing in my orchard here in Selah, Washington are a number or European plums — Opal, Earliblue, Seneca, Early Italian, President, Cambridge Gage, Mount Royal, and Count Althann’s Gage as well as the as yet unnamed new plum from the Prosser breeding program, Prosser Plum 7524-7.
The trees I want to discuss are those that have borne for 2-3 years. They all went through the same tests in 1996. We had five days in late January and early February with temperatures in the minus teens, culminating in a -18°F reading on February 3. The cold notwithstanding, all of the trees that had fruited in 1995 had a heavy bloom in April 1996. On May 3, 1996, the mercury dropped to 22°F as the plums were approaching petal fall. In spite of that, there is now (7/14/96) a heavy set of plums on the President and Earliblue, an average set on the PP 7524-7, a fair set on the Seneca, and a light set on the Opal and Early Italian.
The key observation I want to pass on to fruit growers in Anchorage is that Earliblue ripens only a few days after Opal. Based on its performance here, Earliblue would seem to be a good candidate to pair up with Opal in Anchorage or other south-central Alaskan locations, where the ripening date should be sometime around September 15-25. The fruit is blue, with soft, yellow, juicy freestone flesh, is of excellent quality and flavor, and can be kept for 3-4 weeks in the refrigerator, or half-dried in a dehydrator and frozen. Earliblue has been highly productive here and quite vigorous. I bought my tree from Stark Brothers Nursery, but it is not under patent protection. For Alaskan conditions, it could be grafted to myrobalan or possibly Julian A plum. If anyone wants scionwood or bud wood, please contact me. The tree is about 10’ tall and growing well.
My collection of American hybrid plums took a beating from the May 3 freeze. The only tree that currently has a good crop of plums was LaCrescent (this tree endured -34°F in Anchorage for me). My Toka and Gracious have one plum apiece on them (after a profuse bloom and initial fruit set); the Ptitsin #5 and 9, Superior, Redcoat, Waneta, Pobeda, Hanska, and Kahinta, none. The Underwood plum acted like pear tree—it pull out some rat-tail blooms after the frost and they actually set fruit (but there’s only a few of them).
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