Aviv 5781

We are in Aviv! Spring, and this day before the day before the spring festival, Pesach, starts, please join me on a little walk around the orchard.

Thanks to a good amount of winter chill (750–800 hours or even more) and a mostly benign spring (more on that qualifier later), the bloom is the best I have seen yet at this location.

oarchard view 24March21

It is getting to be late spring, and so the trees are in various phases of bloom and fruit set. Only a few remain in full bloom at this point.

The first foursome consists of a plumcot, two apriums, and an apricot. As we enter the orchard, the first stone fruit we encounter is the on the upper left of the gallery, the Summer Delight aprium (plum–apricot hybrid that leans towards the latter). It is just wrapping up its bloom. To the right–in both orchard-row terms and in the gallery–is the Cot-N-Candy aprium, a luscious white-fleshed variety that had its best bloom yet for me.

The plumcot, in the lower right, is the Flavorella, one of my favorite of all the stone fruits. It blooms early; the photo shows some of the last few blooms among its well developed foliage. Because it blooms so early, getting cross-pollination, which it needs to set fruit, can be a challenge. The key companion here is the Royal Rosa apricot (lower left), which as this image shows, has a heavy set of fruitlets. It is one of the earliest ripening apricots, and its correspondingly early bloom is one of the traits that makes it an ideal pollen source for the Flavorella.

We then enter a group of peaches and nectarines.

Each has its distinctive shade and shape of pink blossom. In the upper right, Baby Crawford. To its left, Heavenly White nectarine, Donut, and Raspberry Red nectarine. In the bottom row, Sweet Bagel (L) and Liz’s Late nectarine. Donut and Sweet Bagel are called thus because they are flat or “saucer” peaches. None of these has fruited well for me in past years, but the extensive blooms and lack of rain during the bloom time gives me hope of good fruit set this year.

We then enter a realm of great expectation for 2021, the white apricots. These trees do not normally bloom well, although I have had a few fruits one one or both trees in some past years. The blooms this year are the best I’ve seen, and while that’s not a sufficient condition for a crop, it certainly is a necessary one.

On the left is the Monique. This is one of the sweetest and most soft-fleshed stone fruits I know of. It is as true a white apricot as any I have had (as white as the best white peaches). It is a shy bearer, but it is such an amazing fruit that I am happy to keep it going in the orchard row even if it gives only 2-3 fruits every other year. This year maybe it will give a lot more–if all goes well for the next few months. On the right is the Canadian White Blenheim apricot. This is less true white, but is very pale for an apricot not named Monique. It has also had a shy-bearing tendency. But look at that bloom! It is not quite a full yet (note many swollen buds that should open in a day or two). This bloom is impressive; I hope the fruit set is a success!

Now it is pluot time! These plum–apricot hybrids lean more towards plum. They have become better known in recent years as farmers markets and even grocery stores now carry them. I have three varieties. In the gallery below, the upper left shows Splash, a yellow-fleshed pluot. This is always the earliest of the pluots to bloom, which can be tricky for pollination, but the Flavor Finale (upper right) and Flavor King (lower left) always catch up and we get concurrent bloom. The bigger issue with Splash is its tendency to develop some condition (a fungus, presumably) that prevents ripening of the typically heavy fruit set. Hoping the near absence of rain this season–while bad for other reasons–might inhibit fungal growth this year.

I alluded earlier to a caveat about the being spring. We actually had a 32-degree night and a couple others near freezing but with frost in mid-March. This can be bad news during bloom and early fruit set, and a couple of past years, including 2020, had frost or freeze conditions that really devastated some varieties’ bloom or set. The Flavor King, as you can see in this picture, may have suffered some bloom damage. That brown on the blossoms is not a good sign, but fortunately not all the blooms seems to have been hit. Rounding out the gallery in the lower right is the Flavor Delight aprium. This is usually the first stone fruit tree to bloom (it is self-fruitful, fortunately), and as you can see, the fruitlets are relatively large for late March and the tree is fully leafed out by now.

Now come the two pluerry trees. A pluerry is a plum–cherry hybrid. The Sugar Twist (left, in gallery below) had an utterly profuse bloom! However, it looks to have been hit quite hard by the brief cold snaps during its bloom. There may be some fruit setting here, but it will be more sparse than it might have been without the cold. The Candy Heart, which bloomed a little earlier, seems not to have been hit at all by cold. In the photo, you can see one of the last blooms as well as some tiny fruitlets. These two need cross-pollination, and so their not blooming together could be a problem, although they do overlap somewhat. They also have nearby the pluots (Flavor King is a good all-around pollen source for other pluots, as well as plums and pluerries). I also have (not shown) Santa Rosa, Beauty, Methley, and Emerald Beaut plums. With all these blooming, there should be enough pollen to go around for those that need a mate. And there are definitely bees! In fact, look closely, as a couple of the photos actually show a bee in a flower providing a benefit for the orchardist.

The last of the plums or plum hybrids to reach full bloom is the Emerald Beaut, a delicious late-ripening yellow-fleshed plum that is one of my favorites. Its bloom is especially profuse right now.

Emerald Beaut plum

That is a lot of fruit trees and blooms! And the images above do not show all the varieties. The Hunza apricot (in my opinion the best tasting apricot, which also has an edible kernel with amazing complex flavor) is having a good bloom, as is the Shar Kah Pareh apricot (plumcot?), although the latter may have suffered some blossom damage from the cold. I also focused here only on stone fruits, although in the first photo with the overview of the orchard, you can see the Warren pear in bloom in the right foreground. These and more are at the Flickr site. Here is hoping for a lot of fruit!

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.
*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.


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.


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.’


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.


It was a good season for plumcots.


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.


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!


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.


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.)

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

Not fool’s gold, but White Gold

I think this is the first bloom ever on the White Gold cherry.


This is a variety I planted as an experiment a few years ago, because it is a lesser known variety that is supposed to be self-fruitful,* and has some ‘Stella’ parentage. Stella always blooms well here (though fruit is another matter–our damp and gloomy late spring season is not cherry-friendly).

The tree looks like it may have more blooms yet to come. Meanwhile, the Stella and Royal Rainier (another somewhat reliable bloomer) are both near their peak blooms. There is also one bloom each on Bing and Craig’s Crimson, but these (not self-fruiful) varieties have fooled me before with their few flowers.

* For some reason some self-fruitful cherries seem to be able to set fruit in mild climates like ours, whereas those that need cross-pollination seem to need more chill as well.

Rare apricot watch

This is a pleasant surprise.


After a winter with on-and-off again chill (two pretty good cold periods of about two weeks each sandwiching an exceptionally hot January). the Hunza apricot is in full bloom. When I planted this tree three years ago, I didn’t necessarily count on getting fruit. It was very much an experiment. The tree had a few blooms a year after planting, but no fruit. Last year it had a sporadic bloom, and actual fruit (and tasty kernels, albeit without the amaretto complexity, to enjoy later). Having our own Hunzas is probably the most exciting and rewarding fruit-growing experience I have had. This year the bloom is amazing. This does not guarantee a good crop, of course, but it certainly is promising. The catalog said the Hunza’s chill factor was unknown but “probably high.” But don’t believe everything you read in catalogs!

One of my other favorite stone fruits, the Shaa Kar Pareh, has bloomed quite well this spring. The bloom period is about over now, and there is some fruit set. (This variety is generally understood to be relatively “low chill.”)


The Canadian White Blenheim had its first ever crop (just a few fruits) last summer. Spring, 2008, was also the first in which it had a ‘normal‘ bloom, by which I mean flowers appearing ahead of the leaves, as is typical of stone fruits. In the two or three previous years following planting, this variety had a habit I had never seen in an apricot before: being fairly well leafed out and then starting to bloom. And no fruit those years.


This year it has done a little of both. It had very few blooms appear before any leaves, and then burst out into a pretty good bloom after most of the leaves had appeared. It will be interesting to see if any fruit sets, and if so, if it is only on the buds that opened the early flowers.

Meanwhile, the Moorpark (my favorite of the ‘apricot’ apricots–the others mentioned so far being more or less ‘white‘) looks very bad. It has the classic symptoms of inadequate chill: delayed foliation and minimal bloom (just one so far, in fact). (No photo: it’s not a pretty sight!)

Of course, as usual, the Newcastle bloomed early and well, and has fruit set. The regular Blenheim went ‘crazy’ and already has needed some fruitlet-thinning. The two newer fall ripeners (Earli Autumn and Autumn Glo) have had minimal blooms (nothing unusual there, in my experience), while the old favorite variety, Autumn Royal, which is in its second year at the finca, has set some fruit. The Royal Rosa and Flavor Delight (the latter an aprium) set well, as usual.

It will be some months till stone-fruit season arrives (the end of the first week of July, if last season is a guide), and a spring set is no guarantee of anything. But my mouth already waters at the sight of these blooms and baby fruits–especially that Hunza!

Enough chill after all?

On this Tu Bi-Shvat, there is much to celebrate as the fruit trees begin a new year. With the very hot January (or perhaps I should say most of Tevet and of Shvat’s first half) I had feared we would be too far behind in chilling accumulation for many of the deciduous fruit trees to bloom adequately.

It is still early spring (and today it feels rather wintry), but the signs are already very encouraging. The Mesch Mesch Amrah plumcot, which is always one of the harbingers of the bloom season, is now covered in blooms. A few blooms are now open on the Flavor Delight Aprium and Minnie Royal cheery. These all have quite low chilling requirements (300 or less?), especially the Minnie Royal, so their blooms are perhaps not especially indicative of significant chilling having been received. However, several moderate-chill (over 400 hours?) varieties are also showing bud swell, including the Autumn Royal apricot (usually a later bloomer), and the Moorpark apricot. Others that have chilling requirements most likely in the 300-400 range are also showing significant bud swell, including Newcastle, Katy, Royal Blenheim, Royal Rosa, and Shaa Kar Pareh (!) apricots and the Flavor King, Flavorosa, and Dapple Dandy pluots, as well as the Flavorella plumcot.

That concentrated chill in the second half of December/Kislev may have produced more chilling hours than I had dared to believe.

All in all, a good way for the trees (and their keeper) to start the new year!

As for Tu Bi-Shvat, with rain having washed out the trail, our shul’s annual ‘walking seder’ for the day was canceled, but the rabbi suggested we all hug a tree and eat dried fruits and nuts for the occasion. And my thought was, for that we need an occasion? Baruch ata Adonai, bo-rei p’ri ha-eitz! Now pardon me while I complete the blessing by enjoying some dried Royal Rosa or Shaa Kar Pareh from last season…

Peak apricot season!

Peak apricot season has arrived within the past week. And that’s always one of the best seasons of the year!


The ‘Newcastle’ reached its peak this year a little later than usual–first week of July rather than end of June. A very heavy crop again, as usual. And always one of the best tasting–at least of the apricot apricots (that is, those with “apricot”-color flesh).

This year, we also have several varieties of “white” apricot.


We had a few fruits on this ‘Shaa Kar Pareh’ apricot last year, but this year the crop is quite heavy. This is an amazing fruit, and they are not even fully ripe yet. So sweet, they are edible even while still a little on the firm side. Incredibly juicy and with a tang that might lead you to think it was a plumcot, rather than an apricot.

We also have fruit on the ‘Canadian White Blenheim.’ This is actually not as white as the Shaa Kar Pareh’ but it certainly is paler in color than any “ordinary” apricot, and also distinctive in flavor. It has never set before for us, even though it has bloomed in some of its five previous springs since planting. What a treat!


Exciting as all the above is here at Ladera Frutal, nothing in Ladera Frutal history quite beats the thrill of harvesting one’s own Hunzas!


It had only three fruits, but this tree has earned its keep on just those three precious apricots. I have previously had ‘Hunza’ apricots only dried, imported from Pakistan, where they are a staple of the diet in some of the valleys of their origin. The dried fruit has a sugary intensity unlike any other dried apricot, and the fresh ripe fruit is just intense! It is amazingly sweet, very juicy and just packed full of flavor unlike any stone fruit I have ever eaten before. It also is one of the largest apricots you will ever see. To top it all off, the kernels are edible, too. (I have not yet cracked open the pits, but that’s on the to-do list.)

Here are a cut Shaa Kar Pareh (left) and a Hunza alongside the pit of another Hunza. There should be a tasty little kernel inside that pit!


(We did not yet have any ripe White Blenheims at the time I took that photo.)

I am not sure if the ‘Hunza’ really qualifies as a white apricot, but I think I have seen it so-classified. It certainly is paler than your typical apricot. Let’s just call it an unbelievably delicious apricot and leave it at that!

Yes, this has been a good year for apricots! And here I have not even gotten into the ‘Flavor Delight’ aprium and ‘Royal Rosa’ apricots earlier in the season, or the ‘Autumn Glo’ and ‘Earli Autumn’ yet to come. Nor did I even mention ‘Royal’ (small crop this year, just about done now, but not to be forgotten).

Apricot season is underway!

The Royal Rosa, the first of our ten or so apricot varieties to ripen, is now at its peak. It probably ranks near the bottom of our varieties in flavor, which is only to say that while the others range from outstanding to truly phenomenal, the Royal Rosa is merely excellent. ((Katy is the only one I have that I would consider getting rid of; if you like subacid apricots, you might like Katy. Ours did not set fruit this spring–no loss, but surprising given the high chill of the past winer and the heavy set on almost all of our other stone fruits.)) Of course, any minor deficiencies the variety has in flavor it at least compensates for by being so far out front of the top varieties in its harvest season.


The crop this year is exceptionally heavy. In the background, you can see the Mesch Mesch Amrah “black apricot” which is really a natural plumcot (Prunus x dasycarpa). We just harvested the first of this tree’s typically light crop in recent days. Another plumcot (not pictured), the Flavorella, also is now ripening–and also has its typically light crop, but by far its best in five years since planting. ((There has been some talk, including here at F&V, that maybe this variety needs an apricot such as Goldkist–a variety I do not have here–for cross-pollination. Maybe so, but it did set just under a dozen fruit this year. (It is always a heavy bloomer.) That’s not many fruits, but we’ll gladly take them! As for Goldkist, it never fruited for me well in Carlsbad by the Sea, despite its being claimed as one of the lowest-chill varieties that is alleged to be best for the coast. I always had better crops there on Newcastle and often on Royal/Blenheim. Goldkist is a good tasting variety, though I would not put it in my top 7.))

Just as the Royal Rosa is reaching its peak (it was much heavier than this a few days ago), we have begun receiving the first fruits of the Flavor Delight aprium. ((Also a plum-apricot cross, but like a pluot, one that does not occur naturally. Unlike a pluot, it leans more in flavor and appearance towards its apricot lineage. And for anyone who may be wondering, it is not GMO; I would have none of that in my organic orchard or, knowingly, in my food supply! It is human-assisted hybridization, but done by Zaiger Gentics the (relatively) old fashioned way: controlled transfer of pollen from one variety to another–in this case, multiple varieties over several generations (thus known as a complex hybrid). The Flavorella is also hybridized under controlled conditions, rather than naturally occurring like the Mesch Mesch Amrah.)) The aprium tastes a lot like a really richly flavored apricot, and looks like a really large one. Its crop is heavy, and typically so. It is one of the most reliable apricot-family varieties we have, right up there with Newcastle, which will begin ripening about the time the apriums are done.


Summer is here, in fruiting terms.

Heavy Kuban

(Yes, contrary to blog appearances, I am still here.)

The Kuban Burgundy plum, growing just outside the corralito, seems rather happy with the amount of chill we had this year. I think there are about 15-18 fruits on this one (weighted-down) branch. ((Actually, 33. So much for my estimation skills.))

Of course, that chill is a distant memory now. It was 99 yesterday, and today marked the third straight day, and the fifth this month (April!), over 90. ((And then on 30 April it would almost feel like winter again.))


The ‘Tropic Snow’ is always one of the first deciduous fruit trees to bloom here, and within the last week, its buds have sprung, right on schedule. ((A half moon cycle since Tu Bishvat and still no almond blooms!))


Much more surprising is the ‘Arctic Jay’ nectarine. The catalog from the grower indicates it requires 800 chill hours. Well, it is has been a pretty chilly winter, but by the time this started to bloom early last week, we might have reached 400.


Obviously, this tree has yet to be pruned. Speaking of needing to prune:


This is one of the late-ripening apricots, and this twisted branch shows how much trees in a hedgerow have to compete for sunlight. Competition is one of the benefits of hedgerow planting: Competition in fruit-growing, much as in party politics, makes the end-product better. Before spring gets too far along, these trees need to be thinned and cut down to size a bit: More fruit, less branching!

Rats! Tonight is the new moon that marks the Chinese New Year. Back at the pre-finca we had a traditional harbinger of spring, an ume apricot (sometimes referred to as an ume plum). It surely would be in full bloom about now. In China itself, of course, signs of spring would be most welcome about now.

And of course, be happy!, as tonight’s new moon also means it is Rosh Chodesh Adar I.