If you are new to growing fruit trees, plum trees make an excellent choice. Plum trees are easy to grow - usually easier than apples and pears - and require very little training or pruning. The only horticultural challenge is that plums flower quite early in spring, so locations that are prone to frosts are best avoided (or choose a late-flowering or frost-resistant variety). They thrive in most conditions, but they prefer water-retentive soils, and mulching is therefore particularly important for plum trees - farmyard manure is ideal.
Unlike most apples and pears, many plum varietes are self-fertile or partially self-fertile and do not need a pollination partner. For plum varieties that are not self-fertile, another plum tree of a different variety flowering at the same time is usually all that is necessary to ensure good pollination and heavy crops - there are few of the pollination incompatibilities found with apples, pears and cherries.
Plums are also more nutrient-rich than apples or pears, and comparable to some other "superfoods" such as blueberries. Although plum trees do suffer from a range of diseases, they seem to catch them less often than other fruit varieties. Most important of all, the flavour of ripe home-grown plums is vastly superior to shop-bought fruit. Indeed in our opinion freshly-picked dessert plums can offer the most exquisite sweet flavours of any fruit available from the temperate garden.
We offer mostly 'European' plum trees - from the species Prunus domestica. European plums have a much better and more interesting range of flavours than the 'Japanese' plums usually found in supermarkets. Most garden plum trees in Northern Europe are of this species, and they are well suited to temperate climates, being hardier than the Japanese varieties and flowering later. Whilst European plums do not store particularly well, the fruit usually ripens over a 1-2 week period, during which time the tree can be picked daily to ensure a steady supply of fruit.
There is also a sub-group of European plums known as Gages, usually ranked within the species Prunus domestica, but sometimes sub-categorised as the "Reine Claude" group. Gage trees look similar to plum trees but the fruits are smaller and rounder than European plums, and either green or golden/yellow in colour. Gage trees prefer slightly warmer growing conditions than other European plums to bring out their full flavour, and their natural home is France - but they can be grown in any temperate climate. Gages have a unique distinctive rich sweet flavour, somewhat like an intense melon.