Apricot blooming, 2018

The ‘Canadian White Blenheim’ apricot has reached full bloom. It has the pinkest flowers of any of the ten or so apricot varieties I’ve ever grown over many years. Strange, given that its fruit has one of the palest flesh tones of any apricot.

Canadian White Blenheim

This variety has fruited for me before, both here and in inland San Diego County. However, we have never had more than a few fruits in any one year, and the modal number of fruits of this variety per year has been zero. That is because it has had blooms that were anything but profuse. It is a pretty clear law of fruit-growing that if you have no blooms, you get no fruit.

In past years, when this variety has bloomed, it has been not only sparse, but also very late relative to the leafing out. That is unusual, in that most stone fruits are at full bloom before leaves really begin to emerge. I always assumed that the culprit was chilling; a stone fruit is unlikely to have a proper bloom if it has not met its winter chilling need during the dormant period. (Dave Wilson Nursery suggests 700 hours chilling needed for this variety.)

There was no question of chill not being met this year. While January was quite warm, both December and February had good long periods of chilly weather and deep cold snaps.¬†In fact, the big fear I had was that an unusually late cold snap would adversely affect fruit trees, many of which typically begin blooming here by mid-February. Indeed, the ‘Flavor Delight’ aprium was in full bloom just when a hard freeze hit. While the tree’s foliage has recovered, there is no sign of any fruit set. The freeze hit it at just the wrong time.

Meanwhile, the ‘Royal’ (‘Blenheim’) apricot has had an odd spring. Normally, it would be blooming in mid/late February. It has a relatively low chilling requirement (from much experience, I’d estimate it at around 350, even though many catalogs and other sources say 400-500). Yet it remained mostly dormant until well into March. And it was not just my own rather old tree; a few trees with ‘Royal’ tags on them, planted on the UC Davis campus a few years ago, did the same. This is very strange.

Perhaps even stranger is that just now my ‘Royal’ is blooming like the ‘Canadian White¬†Blenheim’ normally does–after it has leafed out. It has about a dozen blooms right now, scattered amidst well developed foliage.

Royal apricot

In many years of growing this variety, I have never seen it do this. So, just as one variety that normally blooms sporadically post-leaf-out is instead having a more normal-looking bloom, here an old reliable is exhibiting the staggered behavior of a tree that got insufficient chill.

It has been an odd winter, and even odder bloom season. It is too early to know if the white apricots will set fruit. I express that in the plural, because the ‘Monique’–another even whiter variety that also is hard to get to set in our climate–also had a pretty good bloom this year. The ‘Hunza‘ (a real favorite of mine with luscious complex-tasting flesh and an edible kernel) also is in full bloom right now.

So, while one can’t count one’s fruit this early*, indications are promising for the later-blooming trees. Another law of fruit-growing is that a profuse bloom does not guarantee a good fruit crop, but it certainly makes it more likely.
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*Today is the eve of Pesach (Passover). Somewhere in the Talmud it is suggested that Shavuot is the “Yom Kippur of fruit trees”, the day one which they are judged. That is about right, as in roughly fifty days we will have passed through (over?) the most perilous time for developing fruit. What holds that long has a pretty good chance of making it.

Hunza protection

Sometimes, I go to great effort to try to protect the fruit from squirrels.

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This chicken-wire basket worked. And was worth it. This is the only fruit the Hunza apricot tree has had since either 2010 (when we were away, so I would not know) or 2009 (when it had several fruits, before being transplanted to our current location).

It is an incredibly richly flavored fruit, and also has an edible kernel. (See previous discussions.)

The earli glo of late royalty

The ‘Earli Autumn’ apricots are quite large this year, and already close to ripe.

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The ‘Earli Autumn’ is the trunk at the right of the photo, while the one to the left is another late-ripening apricot, known as ‘Autumn Glo.’ This latter variety has only a few fruits this year, and they are going to ripen somewhat later, is obvious from their lack of any ‘glo’ thus far.

Finally, in the category of late-ripening apricots we have the ‘Autumn Royal.’

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This fruit always has a tendency to crack before it can ripen, and the fruit has also attracted considerable interest from snails. I am not confident that I’ll get to harvest any of these. From past experience, it is by far the tastiest of the three late varieties. Oh well.

Plumcots

It was a good season for plumcots.

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The Mesh Mesh Amrah had a pretty good crop, and ripened earlier than usual. Pictured here on the last day of May, part way through the harvest period.

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And the Flavorella, always somewhat of a shy bearer, had a better crop than usual (pictured on 5 June).

The Mesh Mesh Amrah has gotten so big (even with my regular pruning) that I can hardly believe that it is the same tree that I dug up, with some assistance from my wife, from our old place in Carlsbad in 2002. (I still had a relatively healthy back at the time.)

Plumcots have such a distinctive flavor–clearly a best of both worlds!

Netted Hunza

The Hunza apricot has a dozen or so fruits this year. No, that is not a big crop, but it is more than I ever really expected. This was not, by reputation, a variety likely to succeed here. But reputation never keeps the scientific farmer from an experiment!

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The fruit is barely noticeable in the photo, because only a few of them (lower branch to the right) yet have any color beyond green. But most of them are quite large (which should mean a good sized tasty kernel inside!). And it was time to (try to) protect them from other species that co-habit at the finca.

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So, now the tree is netted, after a little summer pruning to control size and help fit the netting over it. Note also the metal wrapped around the trunk, which sometimes seems to help (a little bit) with climbing rodents.

Behind the Hunza are a grapefruit tree and a “volunteer” Coast Live Oak. I fear the latter is going to need to be cut down, which I would hate to do to a native. But I have many others–opportunists growing on the water of the grapefruit grove and actually more valuable in many ways than grapefruit–and this one will soon provide too much shade and competition for the Hunza and the nearby corralito.

Now certainly is a good time for summer pruning, given that it is officially–axially–summer! At sundown, it also will be Rosh Chodesh Tammuz, so this year the day of maximum light* will have to wait a couple of weeks past the solstice.

(And, an aside: contrary to what I had thought, Hunza is in the Pakistani-administered part of Kashmir, and thus near, but not in, the Swat region.)

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* Assuming the gloom stays away–which, this year, is not a safe assumption.