Growing well-producing, delicious greengages in Tasmania is surprisingly easy, according to our garden guru PETER CUNDALL
Offers a juicy guide to a plum crop
Iprobably raved-on too much recently about the delights of greengage plums, particularly in reference to socalled ‘Old’ greengages.
It seems to have stimulated a huge demand, but people have had great difficulty in finding where this variety can be obtained. Clearly it is no longer commonly available in Australia, but is still on sale in Britain, Europe and the US.
Fortunately, trees are growing in many Tasmanian gardens including ours, producing heavy crops of fruit.
They are twice the size of the common greengage with a similar greenish skin, occasionally covered with red dots. The green flesh is even more delicious and aromatic than the smaller version.
Greengage trees were originally brought to Britain from France a couple of hundred years ago. The French named it Reine Claude de Bavay. Rumour suggests this was a mischievous name because the plums vaguely resembled the plump, shapely bottom of Queen Claude,
The perfect pollinator for all greengages in spring happens to be by far ... the amazing Golden Gage
Duchess of Brittany.
It’s interesting that many Tasmanian backyard greengages are chance seedlings, grown from pips, despite the tree being unable to self-pollinate.
This need for assisted pollination means that all greengages – like most other European plums – are unable to bear fruit unless pollinated by other, different varieties which happen to flower at the same time. Traditionally an ideal pollinator has been Golden Drop, but coincidence of flowering does not always occur.
This is where the good news comes in. The perfect pollinator for all greengages in spring happens to be by far, the most delicious, sweetest and most aromatic of all gages – and it grows to perfection in Tasmania because it loves – and needs – a long period of winter cold.
This is the amazing Golden Gage which not only blooms at the same time, but is actually pollinated by other
An amazing, mutually supporting combination for any plum fancier’s garden. And it is easily available at most nurseries for bare-rooted winter planting.
Keep in mind that European plums are markedly different from their Japanese cousins. They cannot pollinate each other and even attempts to cross-graft the two species almost always fail or are shortlived.
Japanese plums also crop differently, carrying fruit on growth made the previous summer. European plums simply produce small pointed fruit spurs on yearold wood which flower and fruit a year later.
The easiest of all plum varieties is slightly tart, even when fully ripe, but extraordinary valuable for making outstanding, amazingly-flavoured jams, fruit chutneys, sauces and probably the most delicious and sought-after of all fruit wines.
Damsons probably originated from Damascus – hence the name – and were introduced to Britain 2000 years ago by the Romans.
The fairly small trees are incredibly productive and highly resilient. Ours is totally neglected, is never pruned, fed or watered, yet summer after summer it never fails to carry tight clusters of brilliantly-purple damsons, so thick it is almost impossible to see the branches.
Even better, damson trees are self- fertile so they don’t need pollen from another European plum to produce fruit. Even the stones can be sown to produce new trees virtually identical with the mother tree.
And incredibly, they are universal pollinators, meaning blossoms from damson trees will pollinate every other variety of European plum flowering at the same time.
Just the same, all plum varieties benefit from regular pruning and it’s an easy job. The best time is while trees are still in active growth during summer and immediately after all fruit has been harvested.
Just cut out completely all branches growing into the centre of canopies, remove old, diseased wood and reduce the current season’s growth by half.