a french garden

The plum tree finds its name

46 Comments

We inherited the plum tree with the house so we never had any idea of what kind of plum tree it was.  It grew quickly and became a very special tree.  To begin with, it is the first plum tree to flower in the neighbourhood and I think it is admired by all as a sign of spring.  We can have lunch under its branches in the summer when it is so hot that parasols cannot protect you from the heat of the sun’s rays.  The branches are sturdy enough to support a swing and they give just enough shade for the colony of Ashy mining bees (Andrena cineraria) that lives in the grass close to its trunk.  We do not get plums every year because in the colder years the flowers or newly formed fruit get frozen.  We have had years that the grass has been carpeted with fallen plums and I can gorge on the little yellow fruits as I collect them and pass them on to friends.  Those are the years of plentiful plum jam and compote.

This year it has not disappointed us and on the 12 February I captured the first flower to open.  I was not the only person to be watching their plum tree, reading the blog of Vincent Albouy I have discovered the name of the plum tree that I had always referred to as my wild plum tree.  So now I have a host of names to chose from.  It is a Prunus cerasifera and has the common names of cherry or myrobolan plum.

By the 20 February many more flowers were open.  The leaves only appear once the flowers finish blooming.  There are cultivated varieties of this plum that have dark leaves and are grown more for their ornamental value than for the fruit.

It was only 8 degrees centigrade in the garden on the 20 February and we were amazed to see the bees and bumble bees on the flowers in the February sunshine.  Have a look at this short video to see what it looks like.

The plum pollen is a dark yellow/orange and it is easy to spot the bees bringing it into the hive.

Here is another short video of the bees bringing the pollen back to their hives at 3.47 p.m.

One advantage of the cherry plum tree is that it grows well from seed and a few years ago we found a sapling growing in the border not far from the big plum tree.  We hoped we were planting the right tree and we transplanted it to a better position at the bottom of the garden closer to the bee hives.  It has flowered for the first time this year, reassuring us that we have now got a second cherry plum tree in the garden.  It is now about the same size as the big tree was when we bought the house.  The bees will be grateful that the new plum tree is even closer to their hives on cold February days.

 

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Author: afrenchgarden

Born in Scotland I have lived in England, Iran, USA and Greece. The house and land was bought twelve years ago in fulfilment of the dream of living in France that my Francophile husband nurtured. We had spent frequent holidays in France touring the more northerly parts and enjoying the food, scenery, architecture and of course gardens. However, we felt that to retire in France and enjoy a more clement climate than we currently had in Aberdeen we would need to find somewhere south of the river Loire but not too south to make returning to visit the UK onerous. The year 2000 saw us buying our house and setting it up to receive us and the family on holidays. The garden was more a field and we were helped by my son to remove the fencing that had separated the previous owners’ goats, sheep and chickens. We did inherit some lovely old trees and decided to plant more fruit trees that would survive and mature with the minimum of care until we took up permanent residence. The move took place in 2006 and the love hate relation with the “garden” started. There was so much to do in the house that there was little energy left for the hard tasks in the garden. It was very much a slow process and a steep learning curve. Expenditures have been kept to a minimum. The majority of the plants have been cuttings and I try to gather seeds wherever I can. The fruit trees have all been bought but we have tender hearts and cannot resist the little unloved shrub at a discount price and take it as a matter of honour to nurse it back to health. This year I have launched my Blog hoping to reach out to other gardeners in other countries. My aim is to make a garden for people to enjoy, providing shady and sunny spots with plants that enjoy living in this area with its limestone based subsoil and low rainfall in a warm summer. Exchanging ideas and exploring mutual problems will enrich my experience trying to form my French garden.

46 thoughts on “The plum tree finds its name

  1. I’m glad you finally discovered what its name is. It’s a pretty tree and the bees obviously love it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s a beautiful tree, and I love the idea of sitting under it on a hot summer’s day, like sitting under a great green parasol. My garden is very young and doesn’t really have any shade yet.

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    • I did not really consider shade when I was planning my garden which is a mistake. I was lucky that the plum tree was there and is a fast grower. I have just planted a bare root Koelreuteria paniculata (Golden rain) tree this winter in the front garden as I have no shade there. It is quite tall so I hope it will provide shade relatively quickly. Amelia

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  3. How pretty! You sure have found the more clement weather that you sought. Now do send me some, as I still have snow and cold. (Although, the birds have been singing in the mornings — it’s quite the dawn chorus — and our stream has turned into a river, so perhaps Spring is on its way.)

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    • We are forecast to enter into an exceptionally cold period, for here, with lows in the negative Centigrade and highs of 1 or 2. It is very late for us to have such a cold spell but this last year everything about the weather has been exceptional. Amelia

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  4. What gorgeous blossom, such a good thing for the early bees. My mother used to have two very tall cherry plum trees that alas were eaten by honey fungus. I remember the delicious jam from those tiny plums very well. How lucky to find a sapling!

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    • We were so happy to see it flower this year confirming that it was indeed the baby of the big tree. Now we will have to wait and see what the fruit is like. The flowers are so pretty that I would be happy to grow it as an ornamental. Amelia

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  5. I have never seen plum trees before ! It is amazing to see a tree full of beautiful flowers & buds, without a single leaf !!

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  6. Thank you, I now know the name of my plum tree too! I can conform that it seeds seed and comes true as the lane is lined with small trees. I actually cut down the one in the main garden but there are plenty more. They make nice pickled plums too, if you want to try something different with them. I doubt there will be fruit here this year as it is forecast to be very cold here for the next week.

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  7. What a lovely tree. Beautiful blossom, and so early! Now I want a cherry-plum too!

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  8. I am so jealous! What a blizzard of flowers and bees. Here in the Far East of France it is locked solid artic for the next two weeks. Thanks for sending some visual hope!

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  9. Does the plum usually flower as early as this? It seems quite forward, for a relatively northern latitude. Here in Egypt, some plums do flower in Feb. – our dark plum (no name!) has produced a few blooms this month – but it will be a while until the yellow plum has blossom. Farmers’ plum crops often suffer owing to a Feb. spike in temperatures which, like cold in your part of the world, spoils the chances of having a good crop. I love your video of the bees in the tree – it’s buzzing with life!

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    • Usually there are a lot more bees and even overwintering butterflies. The tree can get quite noisy even in February. We are having very low air temperatures at the moment and I am surprised the bees can manage to fly as much as they do. It must be the warmth from the sun that keeps them going. This is the normal time for this tree to flower here and you can see them in hedgerows too. It does mean though that we do not get fruit every year. Amelia

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  10. What? Prunus cerasifera? That is common understock. That is a tree that comes up after a grafted tree gets cut down. It is also a parent of some of the ornamentals. Well, it is good that you like it. I happen to like the naturalized American plum. It is not native here, but naturalized also from understock. Those who have it dislike it, but it does happen to make good jam, and it is very pretty. I just do not brag about it. At least Prunus cerasifera sounds impressive. I think that Raintree actually has cultivars of it available in their catalogue! I remember when I got my beach plum from Long Island in New York, people from New York thought that it was funny that I was so pleased with them.

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    • You are quite correct, it is used as stock for cultivated cherries and even apricots but it has naturalised around here and I see a lot in hedgerows. I used to call it my wild plum but it seems somehow disrespectful not to know the correct name of a tree that fills such an important role in the garden. I think that being the first fruit tree to flower makes it special and I forgot to mention its wonderful perfume. Amelia

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      • For those of us who lack tart cherries, it makes a good jelly. For jelly, it does not matter that the fruit is squishy. It just does not work so well in a pie. With all the orchards that once grew here, tart cherries were notable very rare. ‘Almaden Duke’ was actually discovered just a few miles away, in Almaden (duh) as a seedling of ‘Duke’. However, I do not know of a single tree here.

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  11. Hope things aren’t too severely cold for you Amelia – though it seems most of North Europe is going to cop it next week….maybe it won’t be a good year for plums after all?, which would be a great shame – the blossom looks stunning.
    best wishes
    Julian

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    • I’m not looking forward to the cold, I think I must have got soft since we left Aberdeen. I doubt we will have plums this year which is a pity for the birds too as there is plenty to share on good years. Amelia

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  12. Sometimes the least exotic plants bring the greatest rewards, nectar and pollen for the bees, honey, cherries and shade for you and of course beauty for everyone else.

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  13. I have seen white blossom in the hedgerows this week in south Devon that I think is wild plum so probably similar to yours, but the bees are not flying in the same way owing to the temperature. I loved the video, it looked more like summer than early spring.

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    • I am sure the blossom you are seeing in the hedgerows is the same plant. I have been really surprised this year that the sunshine makes so much difference to the ability of the bees, bumble bees and butterflies to fly. The sun here can be very strong and we often sit outside in the sun in low air temperatures. It must be very important that the bumble bees choose shady spots to hibernate and don’t get disturbed until, at least, the sunshine is not transient. Amelia

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  14. It is always nice to know the names, so glad you have managed to identify it. I do hope this cold snap won’t get as far west as you and the flowers don’t spoil. February is very early for blossom!

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  15. Nice post, close to my heart – I see someone has already pointed out that it is cerasifera not cerasfera. I can’t resist a plug for my book 🙂 https://www.amazon.co.uk/Insects-Cherry-Trees-Naturalists-Handbook/dp/0855463120

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    • Thank you for coming to my rescue 😳 As an author are you aware of the price differences that books are subjected to online? Your book costs over 30 euros in France, not quite the reasonable £6 in the U.K. (but not available by post to France) . Amazon UK will not fulfill certain purchase options to be sent to addresses in France (?). It is not only books that are subjected to these arbitrary conditions of sales. Never mind, I must not grumble about being able to shop while keeping my legs under the table. I will look forward to following life on our plum trees this year. Amelia

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  16. I could get you one via Amazon UK and post to you in France on my next trip? – we are there next beginning of April if you are interested

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  17. Thanks, I get about 50 pence a book 🙂

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  18. Doesn’t this price differential have something to do with the French protecting their independent bookshops?? Here is some background: https://www.internationalpublishers.org/news/blog/entry/why-fixed-book-price-is-essential-for-real-competition

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    • Thanks for that, Philip. I do not 100% agree with the facts. I have found French books expensive, especially non-fiction. I wondered if the French read less and the books sold fewer copies. I feel it is sad to see old business go to the wall but at the same time I cannot see what can be done about digital marketing. There can be great advantages like ebaying to recycle, but the giants like Amazon and the huge supermarket chains now have huge power over what goes to the market place. I suppose, in the end, it must be related to the French control over pricing and sales of products. For instance, you cannot buy cigarettes in a supermarket and only recently a certain limited amount of first aid products normally reserved for pharmacies. Amelia

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  19. Pingback: Stormy spring | thejasminegate

  20. Very pretty and the bees obviously love it too. All the best. Karen

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  21. I have enjoyed some nice meals and good company under that tree…thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Bonjour Amelia, je suis ravie de dénicher ton blog! Francophile Scot here, still rooted in Scotland but dreaming of France. My blog is rather moribund, but I also do exist on Instagram under @occasionalscotland and will be posting gardening things there. Looking forward to a lovely long read back through your blog once I get an exam (in France) out of the way in a couple of weeks. I have bookmarked the address for a treat!

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