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19 Posts
March 19, 2020 - 11:46 pm

Hi folks,

I’ve been reading descriptions of greengage plums (especially *the* legendary greengage that comes up so often in the literature), and (never having tasted one myself) I must say I’m intrigued. First of all: is there anywhere in the Portland, OR area where I might be able to sample these (when in season, of course)?

Second of all: if I were to want to buy a greengage *tree,* does anyone have a lead on where I could find a reliable distributor with accurate and specific names of greengage varieties?

Thirdly, I’ve read that Marianna and Myrobalan rootstocks are typically graft-incompatible with the Reine Claude group of greengages*… but then, what should I use as rootstock with my heavy Willamette Valley clay soil?

And finally, why is it that so many sing the praise of the greengage, yet so few actually seem to plant it? I’ve heard vague descriptions of it being “fickle,” but what does that even mean? I’m patient if I have to wait a few extra years for it to fruit, and I’m fine with the occasional crop failure, but if “fickle” means “inordinately susceptible to disease,” that would be good to know in advance (not to mention, what specific kind(s) of disease!).

Thanks in advance for any insight!!

Portland, Oregon

* “[…] the ‘Reine Claude’ group, in general, are graft incompatible with Myrobalan B and other Myrobalan or Marianna selections frequently used as plum rootstocks.” (Ademir, A Myrobalan Rootstock for Plums, 1995 Moreno et al)

Vancouver SW Washington
684 Posts
March 20, 2020 - 10:13 am

One thing many never think of is to double graft. And if somebody is saving any domestica plum wood and offers you any it should be easy enough now that HOS has the sale on Krymsk-1 plum rootstocks. 

Now here is my own footnote as to the reason why it is a difficult thing to graft the "gages" upon a myrobalan rootstock, but that it isn't for domestica plums:

*In a publication, Rosenberg explained the results of his
experiment during the 1980-es, which concluded with the
statement that Japanese plums like ’Shiro’ and ’Methley’ are
incompatible with the mirobalan rootstocks (Andersen et al.,
2006). Mezzetti & Sottile (2007) on the contrary maintain
the European and Japanese plums are equally successful on
Myrobalan stocks.

The citation is a downloadable PDF file. Also I have found it possible to double graft plum and cherry at the same time using a 5 inch interstem in other situations that were normally not compatable.

For you the domestica plum connected to the greenguage group is a good union.

19 Posts
March 20, 2020 - 4:25 pm

Thanks, Rooney, for the information!  I'm new to all of this (we just bought a house with a yard last year, and I haven't even tried my hand at grafting, yet), so let me ask a couple follow-up questions to make sure I'm understanding you:

Double graft: is this where you have an intermediate segment of scion that serves as a mutually compatible link between the rootstock and the more distal scion (that will become the fruiting part of the tree)?

Next: are you suggesting that Krymsk-1 would be a good rootstock for Portland clay-ey soil, and that grafting a segment of domestica plum and subsequently greengage should be compatible?

Finally -- and if that's correct -- a question specifically about Krymsk-1: I'm still learning about the different rootstocks -- why would Krymsk-1 be a better choice than, say, Marianna 2624?

Vancouver SW Washington
684 Posts
March 20, 2020 - 6:16 pm

You're welcome and it's nice to hear you're following me!!

(Q & A) -Yes and Yes and Maybe.

Using krymsk-1 was the first solution that jumped out at me and so I recommended it over marriana 2624 because the HOS does not sell (the latter) marianna this year.

The first thing I did after your first quiery was went to page 552 inside of Plant Propagation (1989) by Hartmann, Kester, and Davies which points to all the rootstocks for plums that are known at the time of publication. Marianna 2624 is there and there were no objections noted for the group of guage plums for 2624, which (itself) consists of 50% P. cerasifera and 50% P. munsoniana. The krymsk-1 that the HOS currently has is also 50% cerasifera but is a newer invention and is not listed in the book.

It is important to note the many references inside the plum rootstock pages between pp 552-553 with objections towards using the many incompatable plums to the group of gage plums such as green gage for most of them (such as peach stocks, cerasifera-myro-B etc). In which case Marianna 2624 is reported to be the best of a "one step operation" because it's listed good for heavy soils and no objections were noted for the gages. However if you can't find any outside of HOS then it's really okay having a double graft and using the newer and better managed Krymsk-1. (the high clay soil tolerance comes from the P. cerasifera) If clay tolerance is important I can tell you that I have a friend in Lebanon Oregon with dwarf non rootsprouting Krymsk-1 stocks under very productive asian plums that are looking really good!

Any others that have experience with Marianna 2624 should chime in if possible to save you one grafting step. After all double grafts are kind of a tricky balance when done at the same time all at once. Especially plum wood. But I have (as I said) done such all at once. Besides finding what you need the grafting becomes the next hardest task because Krymsk-1 gives good trade-offs (I think).

1400 Posts
March 20, 2020 - 9:41 pm

Never experienced any disease with my Greengage.  What I did experience was it’s need for a compatible pollinator.  Don’t remember what variety I eventually grafted on, but it finally began producing.  Never in abundance, though.  

If you go pollinator hunting, keep in mind, it’s related to European plums, not Asian.  I also suggest avoiding nursery pollination charts, look for a generic source of info online. Nurseries often suggest something they sell, which experience has taught me ...isn’t always compatible Confused

John S
2593 Posts
March 21, 2020 - 11:10 am

Good point Viron. I hadn't thought of that angle.

I have mostly grafted to seedlings of Hollywood, since Hollywood is one of the most productive plums for our area and I've had it for decades. It works well for me.

John S

19 Posts
March 21, 2020 - 9:33 pm

Rooney: thanks a lot for the clarifications. I’m going to have to track down that Plant Propagation book of yours – that sort of fine-grained detail is exactly what I need here.  My local library doesn’t carry it, though I’ll see if I can get an interlibrary loan going after they reopen post-Covid.  It’d be great if I could a list of compatible rootstocks and avoid double-grafting for now (likely a little beyond my ability as a first attempt at grafting in general!).  Though I will definitely keep the double-grafting idea in mind if I don’t find any other alternatives.

Viron: thanks for the heartening news on disease (or lack thereof)!  I have heard that greengages don’t produce much (as you mentioned) – do you have a ballpark value for a typical year? Even as a fraction of another European plum, like a Brooks, would be a helpful reference point (I grew up with a couple Brooks in the yard).  Does the fruit live up to the hype, despite the reduced output? Also, thanks for the heads up on securing a compatible pollenizer – that actually hadn’t even occurred to me.

John: thank you for the suggestion – I don’t have any Prunus cerasifera in the yard yet, but I will keep that in mind.  I grew up on P. domestica, so that where my heart is for the time being (though I’ve had my own yard for all of a single year, so things will likely change around 🙂

1400 Posts
March 23, 2020 - 12:14 pm

I’d guess the Greengage produced ¼ to ⅓ that of a productive European ‘prune’ tree.  Strange thing, various limbs seemed more productive than others. Not sure if that was a frost problem or not, it was in a low area Confused

The fruit was far less than the hype.  I often had it recommended by the oldest of locals.  I suppose in their day, it was as good as prunes got. To me, a far superior variety was a Petite Prune.  Says One Green World: “This unique and very popular French variety was brought to the US over 100 years ago. Petites dark purple fruit is one of the best plums for drying and making prunes. Very sweet and delicious, it is also great for fresh eating.”  

As for pollinators, I learned to make an early call whether to plant a compatible stand-alone variety, in addition to the variety I really wanted.  Guess whether existing trees in the vicinity could do the job. Or, often at the time of planting, graft a well researched scion (often from the HOS exchange) to become a permanent scaffold limb on the desired tree.  

The grafted limbs worked best, producing another interesting fruit in the process, just not an entire tree Smile

19 Posts
March 23, 2020 - 10:50 pm

Viron: that is some really useful information -- thank you!   Based on your underwhelming review of green gage, I may opt for you suggestion of relegating it to a grafted scaffold limb on a different prune.

1 Posts
April 16, 2020 - 8:40 pm

Frugivore - I picked up a Bavay's Green Gage from Trees of Antiquity last year. It's still too young to have fruited so I can't speak to the flavor or yields, but I am curious to hear from others about what a good pollinator might be to graft on. I also planted a Blue Damson plum thinking it could pollinate the Green Gage, but from the timing of the blooms this year on both trees it looks like they might miss one another. Any insights would be appreciated. Thanks!

John S
2593 Posts
April 17, 2020 - 2:42 pm

Welcome to the forum jdbsherman,

At first I thought your tag was jdfisherman.

I have a Damson plum that fruits and pollinates heavily next to an Italian prune. Both loaded. I got the Damson plum when I pruned it off a tree that leaned over a sidewalk, so it grew from a 5 inch cutting.  The main thing is to see that they are flowering at the same time.  Mine are flowering now. 

JohN S

84 Posts
September 17, 2020 - 3:31 am

I have tasted the Green Gage.  Nice little plum.  Sweet-tart flavor.  Sometimes buy them from a Hood River Orchardist.

Most years, the Copper family, appears at NE 38th and Thompson, on weekends  starting the first week in October.

Often, they have these plums.  I don't know if the sellers will be appearing this year.  But, if so, it's worth a tasting.  Maybe it will ring your bell.   Preferences differ. 

I also know of an unkempt tree a few miles off.  Were the trees rare, I might check to see if it still lives.

Fond of the French Prunes.  Though I haven't had one for a while.  Much better than the Italian, in my opinion.  So, I gotta agree with Viron.  Thumbs up on the French prunes.  Depending on your site perhaps.  There were once large plantings in the area of Santa Cruz, Ca..  Warmer there, than it is here.   Delicious!

I also have an affection for the Elephant Heart.  Though I haven't actually had one in years.  Outwardly, it resembles the Santa Rosa, while under the skin it is rich, juicy, delicious and Purple.  Kinda like a giant cherry.

I haven't grown one here; I tried though.  But, maybe not hard enough.  Gotta have the right spot, and baby it for a few years.  I may have been less than attentive.

Lately, I have taken a liking to Pluots.  Awfully good, but for now, they are available commercially.   Not especially expensive either.  Hard to justify planting a tree. 

19 Posts
September 18, 2020 - 9:48 pm

buzzoff: thanks for the lead on where to track down greengage!  I'll keep my eyes open this fall (and add to my calendar for next year, just in case).

Regarding the French prunes: I've heard a couple mentions here and there beyond you and Viron -- I may have to get another tree (or at least graft on a scaffold limb).  It's a shame that most markets around here only carry a handful of varieties of any given fruit -- I wish I could sample a few before I commit to a tree.

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