Spring already?

Spring can come rather early here at Ladera Frutal. The Tropic Snow peach is one of the bellweathers of spring, as it is always the first of our varieties of deciduous tree fruit to bloom. This photo was taken on January 27.

Tropic Snow first bloom 2006

If I were to grow only one peach it would be Tropic Snow. It is very low chill and thus can be grown practically anywhere–perhaps not literally in the tropics, but certainly in southern Florida or interior Hawaii. (Its low-chill character could cause it problems in colder regions, however, as it might bloom too early–though not in January).

The fruit is white-fleshed (hence ‘snow’) and melting (also like snow!). It is not a keeper or a shipper, and so you are not likely to see it for sale anywhere, even a farmers market. You pretty much have to grow it yourself. The flesh is extremely juicy and luscious, with a tart lemony character to go with classic white-peach flavor.

Its listed chilling requirement is 100-200 hours. It clearly is not more than 100, as the buds started swelling on January 10, at which time its location up here on the slope just below F&V Central was probably barely 100, if that. In the photo can be seen not only a couple of blooms, but a whole series of swelling buds. It will be in full bloom in the first days of Februrary, and we can expect the first fruit in the second half of May. The photo also shows the wildflowers in bloom in the irrigated ares of the slope among the bay rum, curry leaf, pitanga, cherimoyas, sapodillas, and other trees.

Much more surprising than Tropic Snow bud swell on January 10, is Newcastle apricot bud color in late January.

First Newcastle red buds 2006

The Newcastle is one of the very best apricots. Most sources claim it has a chilling requirement of 500 hours, but clearly those sources are wrong. A tree that had been planted at our house in Carlsbad by the original owner in 1975, a mile or so from the coast, fruited annually, even in years when the local chilling accumulation was probably no more than 350 hours. The tree in the photo is grown from a scion of the old tree we left behind in Carlsbad and is planted in the corralito at the lowest part of Ladera Frutal. Down there, the chilling accumulation is much greater than in the upper reaches of the slope, which is why the corralito planted with apricots, pluots, cherries, pears and higher-chill peaches is located there. Even so, the chill received down there as of a few days ago when the buds started to swell was probably under 350 hours. The cluster of buds that are swelling may be doing so because the cluster is at the end of a branch that was pruned. That is one of the reasons we prune during dormancy–to stimulate growth and flowering the coming year. So the reddening of these buds is not a gaurantee that the tree has had its chilling requirement met, but their presence is certainly encouraging.

Newcastle is thus the variety I most recommend to people seeking to grow apricots in low-chill areas. Most nurseries recommend Gold Kist, but aside from being a much less flavorful apricot, Gold Kist was much less reliable than either Newcastle or Royal in Carlsbad. Katy is also sometimes recommended as a low-chill apricot, but it too appears to be more spottily productive even here (I no longer grow Gold Kist) and Katy is also a subacid fruit, and what’s the point of eating an apricot that lacks acidity? I recently saw a variety called Tropic Gold that is alleged to be low chill, but I know nothing about it (and amazingly I neglected to buy a tree, though I still may go back and get one in the name of science).

If Tropic Snow is blooming and Newcastle is gearing up, pitchers and catchers must be getting ready to report!

0 thoughts on “Spring already?

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