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Cherry Plum Article

Cherry-Plum Hybrids for Saskatchewan
by Dan Andrews

Cherry-plums first became available in the late 1800's and early 1900's. Since that time many new varieties have become available, although some may be hard to find due to lack of demand and previous difficulty in their propagation. Cherry- plums have excellent quality for canning, jams,jellies, pies, juices, and some are of good quality out of hand. Many cherry- plums are low growing shrubs and some are trees with ornamental value. The purpose of this fact sheet is to provide the homeowner or grower with an introduction to cherry-plums and a description of some of the varieties well adapted to Saskatchewan.

Most of the original cherry-plums were produced by crossing sandcherry (Prunus besseyi) with the Japanese plum (Prunus salicina). Later varieties were also produced on open pollinated cherry-plums and by crossing cherry-plums with other cherry- plums.

Many varieties are very hardy. Some varieties prefer sheltered location and survive due to their low growing habit and a snow cover. Yet other varieties such a Sapa suffer winter killing on upper branches, but still produce heavily on lower branches. Low growth and heavy production of cherry-plums makes them particularly well suited to mechanical harvesting. With the advent of improved propagation methods and a processing industry cherry-plums could be a potential alternative for Saskatchewan.

Cherry-plums grow well in a sandy loam soil. For the most part in Saskatchewan irrigation would be required. The soil would have to be well drained, non-saline, and the water of good quality. At no time should the water table be within 1m of the surface. Planting on a north or east facing slope will help to avoid spring frost and may delay bloom as the blossoms are particularly sensitive. Shelter belts running north south along a north slope allow cool air to drain, increase heat build-up for early harvest, and increase pollination.

It has been said that the sandcherry is the best pollinator of the cherry-plums, however the sandcherry can be later flowering. Improved pollination may result from pinning lower branches of the sandcherry to the ground. A second variety of cherry-plum may also serve as a pollinator, however good combinations have not been worked out.

For the homeowner or grower, cherry-plums have the appeal of fruiting 2-3 years after planting. Some varieties mature as early as July and others by September. Some of the late maturers will even be uninjured by September frosts and will remain on the plant in good condition until October. This would extend the canning or marketing season for the homeowner, market gardener, or U-pick operation.

Opata: Fruit is blue-green with green flesh and about 3.0 cm in diam. Excellent for eating out of hand and fair for preserves. Upper branches often suffer winter injury, but lower branches usually fruit well. Grown as a bush in a sheltered location. Ripens in late Aug.

Sapa: Fruit is blue-black with red flesh and about 2.5 cm in diam. Quality surpasses Opata. Not as hardy as Opata but lower branches usually fruit well. Grown as a bush in a shelter location. Fruit begins to ripen in late Aug., is uninjured by Sept. frosts, and will remain in good condition until Oct.

Oka: Fruit has purple-red tough skin with dark red flesh of good quality and 2.5-3.0 cm in diam. Grown as an upright bush. It is somewhat hardy but should be well sheltered. Ripens mid- Aug.-Early Sept. and fruit remains edible on the tree for 3 weeks.

Alace: Fruit is dark purple with green flesh 2.5 cm in diam. Said to resemble Opata. Plant is a low, spreading, hardy bush. Said to ripen in July.

Beta: Fruit is red-blue with greenish flesh and 2.5-3.0 cm in diam. Quality is good and stone is free. Tree is hardy. Ripens late Aug.-Sept. Beta was developed at the University of Saskatchewan. Other U of S cherry plums worth trying are Delta, Epsilon, Gama, Kappa, Omega, and Zeta.

Convoy: Fruit is scarlet red with yellowish flesh and about 2.0 cm in diam. Quality is good for canning. It is an upright, narrow, hardy, and productive tree. Fruit ripens early Sept.

Dura: Fruit is dark green with a purple mottle and flesh is maroon-purple. Size is large - 3.5 cm in diam. Quality is good for dessert or canning and stone is somewhat free. It is grown as a low spreading bush which is hardy and productive. Season is from late Aug.-Oct.

Heaver: Fruit is Purple-black with green flesh and large - 3.5 cm in diam. Quality is good as dessert and excellent canned. It is a low, spreading, hardy, and productive bush. Ripens in mid-Aug.

Manor: Fruit is dark purple with dark red-purple flesh and 2.5-3.0 cm in diam. Good as dessert and fair for canning. A hardy more upright bush than Sapa and well adapted to the northern prairies.

Mistawasis: Fruit is purple with red flesh and 2.5-3.0 cm in diam. Skin is thin and flavour pleasant. Bush is 8-12', upright, spreading, moderately productive and hardy to -50F.

Prolific: Fruit is dark purple and flesh is green and about 2.5-3.0 cm in diam. Quality is good. Bush is very hard and productive, but less vigourous than Opata. Ripens in Sept.

Sapalta: Fruit is red-purple with almost black flesh and 3.0 cm in diam. Stone is almost free. Bush is similar to Sapa.

Skinner's Favourite: Fruit is purple-red with green-yellow flesh and about 2.5 cm in diam. Quality is good for dessert and excellent for jam. Bush is upright and about 5-6' high.

Wessex: Fruit of good quality and dries like a prune. Bush is extremely hardy, productive and blooms late.

Others: Compass, Copper, Manson, Mordena, Hiawatha, Sacagawea, Manorette, and Eileen.

** note - Many of these varieties may be difficult to find.


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