I'm new to the forum so I'm not sure if requests are considered cooth or not.
Just a little background: I very recently started an orchard in a difficult climatic zone. It's firmly zone 3 with short and cool summers. Early season apples on the right root stock perform well. Sour cherries are somewhat hit and miss. Plums... well plums have proven quite difficult. Most varieties are not hardy or will not ripen in my area. I have three seedling species plums that have yet to blossom but have proven hardy to the tips. It remains to be seen if my season will allow their fruit to ripen.
What I am hoping to locate is someone who is currently growing the plum "Black Ice" or some other very early plum that is pretty hardy, who also keeps very hardy native plums such as prunus americana or prunus nigra as pollinators. The theory is that by sowing seeds from the early plum pollinated thus, a certain portion of them may keep the very early ripening characteristics along with the additional hardiness of the native plum.
I'm not sure if anyone out there is able to help, or if anyone knows of a likely variety already existent that is both very hardy AND very early AND available in the US, but I would be grateful for any assistance.
BTW I am willing to pay for the seeds and their shipping. I don't wish to impose...
Hi, Chris, and welcome to Permies! I just want to reassure you that such requests are perfectly OK here. I'm originally from Alaska (grew up on the Yukon up near the Canadian border) and I'm fascinated by the recent successes of people who are growing fruit trees there now. I have a buddy in Anchorage who says he is getting apples and cherries (I don't know varieties) pretty routinely on some trees he's got planted in the sun reflection in the south-facing sun-reflecting angle of a four-plex apartment he owns.
I don't know if we have anybody here who has the plum seeds you need, but I hope so! I've never heard of a fruiting plum tree in Alaska, it would be awesome if you could be the first. (Although if it's possible at all, somebody down in the Panhandle has probably beaten you to it.)
Plums in Alaska are not unheard of. Interior Alaska, though colder has more heat to offer during the growing season and so has a little more potential for success. The Pan Handle, though not warm, has a long frost free period with very mild winters.
Throw in freeze thaw cycles during our winters (40 degrees F today, -30 degrees below zero in a few days)and things can get pretty rough for all but the hardiest or best adapted fruit crops for my area.
I have heard of people being successful with plums in the Matsu Valley (where I live), but so far no one has been able to put me in contact with them or have been able to tell me what they were growing. Mostly I hear stories of failure (and not too many of those), or isolated stories of success in Anchorage (a good bit warmer in the winter there).
I have just gotten in contact with the Alaskan fellow and he informed me that he has several varieties, most of which barely ripen for him in the interior. A few he says are earlier and may be possible for Wasilla. He's offered scion wood and I think I will take him up on it.
None the less, I'm still hoping for that lucky seedling!
I'd target University of Minnesota varieties, Superior, Alderman, Toka.
Black Ice was developed at the university of Wisconsin-River falls, my alma mater. The breeder there was able to cross japanese plums with more hardy types by stacking straw bales and other such protections in order to protect the less hardy trees and their blossoms. I've also been intrigued by the tales of ultra hardiness among manchurian apricots in North Dakota shelterbelts.
Seedling plums certainly could work too, it's never a bad thing to plant seeds in my opinion if you have space and patience.
I have a Toka currently that keeps dying back. Last year it only got to about two feet high before fall. I'm thinking it won't be with me much longer. Unfortunately there have been others in my area with the same sorts of experiences. It would appear that zone 3 South Central Alaska is not the same as zone three other places where the plant breeding and selection is actually taking place.
I feel the same way about seedlings. After all, named cultivars began as seedlings of one sort or another. If one had the space, the grower could do his own selection and thereby come up with cultivars adapted to his own locality. Regional cultivars!
No personal experience, but Manchurian grow on the Canadian prairies with little problems from what I have heard. I planted a couple in the back yard of our last house. I let one get too wet but the other was doing fine a couple years later when we moved.
Chris, I have some "native" plums - I think. Whatever they are, they are small and slightly tart, but they produce on three year growth. The root sucker and seed propagate, or they have in my yard and garden anyway. Unfortunately they are all under the snow/ice at the moment. Nevermind that, I just went out and the snow/ice has melted away in one spot and there's probably 20 or 30 of them on the ground out there. I guess the birds didn't like them as much as they do the chokecherries.
If you want some, I'll put 'em in a box and send them your way on Tuesday. Purple Mooseage me your address if you do. I'll be off on a trip for a month after that - no telling what will happen between now and then.