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Blenheim apricot hopes

January 31, 2019

First, here's a photo of my tree:

I planted this Blenheim apricot 2 years ago and it has never flowered or fruited. It's on the Citation rootstock. It was next a 5in1 plum and a 5in1 apple and both of them flowered and fruited. It's possible I wasn't giving it enough water in the first 2 years (same amount as plum/apple, however).

I'm in a coastal bay area zone 10, but without the heat. It sits in the sunniest part of my yard, getting all day sun.

Does anyone know more about Blenheims? Do they take a few years? Do they need a pollinator? Should I replace it with a new Blenheim? I'm seeing a 4 in 1 apricot at Berkeley Hort on Citation rootstock and it includes 4 of the following options - Blen., Tomcot, Katy, Royal Rosa, Flvr. Del. Aprium

I want to prune it as I think the branches are getting kind of leggy, but will be waiting until summer

Comments (20)

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    It is the primary apricot variety grown commercially in CA so should do very well for you. Two years is not very long for a young tree of this size. In fact, the apple and plum probaby shouldn't have been allowed to bear fruit that early....the typical recommendation is to wait for the 3rd year at least

    All apricots are self-fertile - a pollinator is unnecessary. And you can prune now. In fact, most commercially grown and home orchard fruits are pruned while dormant.

    bonitapplebum thanked gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)
  • bonitapplebum

    gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)I went to a talk by Dave Wilson Nursery at our local nursery last week and they recommended that apricots not be winter pruned. They said to prune all other stone fruits in the winter but to summer prune apricots and cherries because they are most susceptible to disease during wet weather.

    And yes, I also learned that I should have picked off the fruit on the apples and plums during the first 2 years. They seem healthy, vigorous, and still in shape however. Their trunks were also much thicker than my apricot, but idk if that has to do with the rootstock multi-on-one species are grafted onto, etc.

    This is going to be my third year with this apricot. I'm assuming it was a year or two old when I got it. Shouldn't I have gotten fruit already? No fruit has ever set.

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    I have no idea where that is coming from.........that sort of advice is much more appropriate to a colder, wetter spring area than it is to coastal CA! Heck, even up here in the damp PNW, home orchard pruning - at least structural pruning - is primarily done during the dormant period. Any summer pruning is typically done to control size, not to shape or begin training a young tree.

    Actually the fruits that are most vulnerable to disease issues during wet, mild springs are apples and pears - not cherries or other stone fruits - as they are overly prone to fireblight under those conditions. And even they are best pruned while dormant.

    And UCDavis, the CA extension service sponsoring university, recommends dormant season pruning for any fruit trees! UCDavis Fruit Tree Pruning How-To

  • bonitapplebum

    gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9) Thank you for that link.

    Here's the link Dave Wilson nursery also shared with us to reference what they were talking about that day - http://www.davewilson.com/home-gardens/backyard-orchard-culture

    Oddly enough, Dave Wilson is located in Hinkman, CA which is central valley area of California. I imagine they'd get even less rain/fog/humidity there than where I am.

  • bonitapplebum

    gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9) So do you think I should wait out this year with my Blenheim? I have yet to see a flower on it. What could be wrong with it if I don't get any flowers again this year? (This will be my year 3 with it, and it is probably is 4 years old)

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    It blooms very early - February or early March - so is susceptible to damage by frosts at that time and that can certainly impact any flowering.

    And because your tree appears never to have been pruned since planting, it is also very possible that it would not produce a lot of flowers to begin with.

    bonitapplebum thanked gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)
  • melikeeatplants

    give it one more season imo

    bonitapplebum thanked melikeeatplants
  • sautesmom Sacramento
    it sounds like some of the comments here are not from people who grow apricots!
    Blenheim is NOT a commercial crop in California, much less the biggest crop. (my guess would be the hard-as-rocks Patterson) Blenheims are very hard to find even at Farmers' Markets. They ripen unevenly, and when ripe are VERY soft and spoil fast (but oh so worth it!)
    They need a lot of heat to ripen, but too hot and they pit burn.
    I am sorry to say you probably are not hot enough in the Bay area to get Blenheims to sweeten up, even if you can get them to ripen. My favorite apricot is Goldensweet (now sold by Tomorrow's Harvest) and I think you would have better luck as it is not so picky in my yard, I get Goldensweets every year, unlike all my other varieties.
    And the above advice about pruning is ABSOLUTELY correct, never prune apricots in winter!!! Always wait until July or August. They are incredibly prone to canker and pruning in cold rain or fog could result in a dead tree in a month. I have lost several trees that way.

    Carla in Sac
    bonitapplebum thanked sautesmom Sacramento
  • melikeeatplants

    Blenheim was great fo me in San Jose but the climate is very sunny and hot there. Bay Area has so many micro climates but I think Carla is right seeing you are zone 10 coastal heat loving stone fruit probably not as good a choice as something else like apples or pears

    bonitapplebum thanked melikeeatplants
  • bonitapplebum

    sautesmom Sacramento Thank you for commenting! Are blenheims particularly demanding of heat? More than other stone fruit?

    In the same area of the yard, I do have a thriving Elberta peach and a 4 in 1 plum (santa rosa, italian prune, satsuma, shiro). Both produce abundant sweet fruit for us. I ask because I wonder if blenheims could/should do well if the other two trees are able to thrive here. What do you think?

    Also, if I indeed do not have the heat, how would that play out? Would I never see any flowers? Or would it flower and then the fruit would not set or it would set and then never develop to a full size?

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    For many years, Blenheims were the primary commercial apricot grown in CA, but used more for dried fruit rather than fresh (although delicis fresh as well). It has only been recently that they have faded in production numbers due to the cheapness and wide availability of Turkish fruit. But they are still gown commercially in small numbers, primarily in the Sacarmento and Santa Clara valleys.

    One of the reasons for their popularity is that they have a long shelf life compared to most apricots........

  • socalnolympia

    I've actually had fairly good luck with Blenheim in zone 10 Southern California.

    I'm solid zone 10, between 10b and 10a.

    The tree tends to produce fruit about every other year, and depending on how cold the Winter is.

    Yeah, there used to be commercial groves of Blenheim apricots in this area in the 40s but increasing urbanization reduced the Winter chill effect.

    There are other lower chill apricot varieties, but the Blenheim variety tastes better.

    Blenheim may not be the most suited to this low chill area, but the trees can produce fruits. A few years ago the tree produced maybe 40-50 fruits. (It's on standard rootstock)

  • socalnolympia

    I would make sure your tree is well watered in the Summer.

    Don't be surprised if it is a little slow to grow (especially after mild Winter years).

  • Robin Morris

    I just planted a Blenheim as I've read lots of reports about it being the best Apricot to grow in the bay area. I am also in 10a in a coastal influenced part of the Bay Area. We definitely get enough chill for a Blenheim and not enough heat just means unripe fruit. I know I may not get enough heat to get sweet fruit (but trying anyway as I love apricots), but I've never heard about issues with fruit set.

    Have you tested your soil? Not getting any flowers or fruit sounds like a deficiency of some kind. Have you fertilized?

  • bonitapplebum

    Robin Morris Yes, I have fertilized 3x a year with Espoma Treetone and use horitcultural oil during the dormant season. I have not yet tested the soil and perhaps I should do that this year. The apricot is only about 5 feet from a young multi-bud plum tree and an elberta peach that are both thriving, so if it was a soil issue maybe it would have also affected the other 2 trees.

    They are definitely the best apricot. I have a friend who has great success with them in San Jose and we always make sure to stop there near 4th of July to lighten her load. If mine shows no action this year, I'll replace it with a new blenheim tree and try again. I wonder if I have a pest issue that I can't see, like a bore below the roots or something.

  • Robin Morris

    Yeah, sometimes it is impossible to tell. I planted a Zutano Avocado 5' from a Lamb Hass. Same water, fertilizer, etc... The Zutano died. Replanted it. The second one died too. The Lamb Hass is 9' tall and has fruit. Mysterious! Btw, you could do Avocados for your hedge (in the other thread) if you have enough space and your neighbors like avocados. Mine are in a narrow space along between my driveway and my neighbor.

    I just planted 10 stone fruit in my front yard, so I am sure some of mine will wind up with issues as well. I know getting sweet fruit here is a challenge with our cool summers. I am planning on learning how to graft as I know their will be a lot of trial and error. I was chatting with someone in Santa Cruz (in a cool summer area) on growingfruit.org who grafted a bunch of different apricots on to her Katy Apricot tree. She said Blenheim was the only one that worked. I got some Moorpark Scions in my fridge I'm going to try grafting on one of my trees to see how they do.

    I am confused about your climate... on the other thread you said you get highs in the 90s... Other the the freaky hot summer of 2017, I don't ever get temperatures much above 75. I am in N. San Mateo/Burlingame area right outside the fog. Great weather for humans, but the fruit trees could use more chill and more heat though. Around where are you located?

    bonitapplebum thanked Robin Morris
  • bonitapplebum

    Robin Morris I'm now in Orinda in the East Bay. We are in a small valley just behind Oakland in the Oakland hills range and so in June/July, we have fog in the morning/late evening but also have 90-97 degree weather during high noon hours. In August, the heavy fogs rolls back in and temps cool again.

    How narrow is the area where your avocados live? Their leaves look large and I assumed they would need considerable width.

    We moved here from Berkeley (which gets the same highs as you, no more than 75 at its hottest) and I'm just getting started with new fruit trees here, many of which I'm trying to espalier. Are you grafting the new variety right onto existing healthy trees that you have? I haven't grafted anything yet but I was just looking at a grafting class at a nearby nursery.

  • lgteacher

    From UCANR : The optimum time of year to prune fruit trees is the dormant season, December, January (best) and until the middle of February, but note summer schedule for Apricots.

    I think fruit bearing is more dependent on winter chill than summer heat because the fruit should be ripe before the hottest weather sets in. Have you done any summer pruning? Kudos for whitewashing the trunk!

  • nanelle_gw (usda 9/Sunset 14)

    I am in the East Bay, but my climate is more like the Central Valley. Different from some more famous Bay Area climates. I am USDA 9, Sunset 9, some years like 14.

    This is a picture of my Blenheim , in it s second year in a wine barrel liner. Flowers, but no fruit last year.

    I had one in the ground, but must have sprayed it wrong one year, as it died in full flower.

    Two pluots; LOTS of flowers and several decent fruit last year. I thinned a lot but kept a few.

    Last year, in April

    Spring 20017

    When I bought them at Morningsun Herb Farm, winter 2017

    Thanks for the reminder about white washing the trunks!

    I understand this area was famous for it's stone fruit because of when it ripened here.

    Web results Peaches occupy a sweet slice of history - Historical Articles of Solano County PDFwww.solanoarticles.com › vhcdb › pdf

    " On June 22, 1871, the Weekly Solano Republican ....“Pleasant Valley, situated in the northern portion of this county, is generally noted for sending the first fruit to market in the state. Solano will again take the lead in fruit shipments thi year...sending of fruit eastward as far as Denver. ......During the decade of the 1870s, orchard acreage rapidly increased in the valleys,....many of these locations providehd microclimates that helped ripen fruit earlier thana anywhere else in the state. "

    And there's also the Outlets

  • Robin Morris

    bonitapplebum, Orinda is lovely. All the unique climate zones here make it challenging.

    Glad you found the other fruit forum... those folks know what they are doing. I am ReaLM over there... just a newbie trying to get help

    I am going to try grafting the new varieties on to existing trees. I know grafting can be tricky. I don't expect a lot of success this year, but I have to start somewhere.

    Btw, the CFRG golden gate chapter scion exchange was right by you in Pleasant Hill (I drove right through Orinda to get there). You should go next year if you are interested in grafting. It is in January.

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