Optimistic About Apricots

Optimistic About Apricots

I really love apricots, and I have fond childhood memories of my grandmother’s apricots drying in her mid century stove. She lived in Southgate, only slightly further inland from where we are now. When we bought the house, I was told by an older neighbor, that before our housing tract was built, this area was an apricot orchard and many houses started out with an apricot tree on the lot. There is one house, two blocks away with a really old gnarled apricot tree that is big enough that it can be seen from the front yard over the fence. It has had fruit on it every year that I remember to pass by and take a glance.

Not knowing what apricot varieties were growing successfully around here, we planted a Katy Apricot, back in 1999. We picked it based on a few articles in the L.A. Times and the O.C. Register’s garden section touting it as one of a few ideal low chill apricot cultivars. After six years and a total of just three apricots, I decided to take it out. I replaced it with a Gold Kist, another low chill apricot, also recommended by the edition of Sunset Western Garden Book that I had at the time. It was also a bust. I was so discouraged, I decided I would not be planting yet another apricot, and planted a loquat in that area instead.

In 2016, I began practicing lots of grafting. I had a multi-grafted plum, on Citation rootstock, that Methley plum completely took over. I was not impressed with Methley so I stumped it and turned it into a multiple stone fruit tree. That winter I started by grafting it with two plums, two pluots, and Tropic Gold Apricot. I figured I had nothing to lose putting apricot in the tree since I could prune it out if it produced poorly. Tropic Gold grew so well that it produced two fruits its second summer, in 2017, and after only having about 280 chill hours. Unfortunately, some critters decided to take them off the tree before I did.

Tropic Gold Apricot
A Tropic Gold apricot, not quite ready

Even though I didn’t get to try any, I was hopeful that I could occasionally be successful with apricots. When bare-root tree season came around, I purchased a full tree of Tropic Gold from Laguna Hills Nursery on Krymsk 1 rootstock, and also to make a positive id on the scion I got from the North San Diego CRFG scion exchange. The new tree is now planted where my Panamint Nectarine used to be. It gets mostly shade in the winter and full sun in the summer. Last year, in summer 2019, I picked a few dozen apricots from both the original graft and the new tree! This year, the tree is much bigger, despite pruning, and is full of spurs, swelling flower buds, and flowers.

Tropic Gold low chill apricot
Size comparison of Tropic Gold apricot to a quarter. They aren’t large, but they were juicy and delicious

Over the last two years, I grafted on more apricot varieties to my other stone fruit trees. The new varieties I have collected so far include Newcastle, Flora Gold, Earligold, Sparks Mammoth, Blenheim, Palsteyn, Tardif de Bordaniel, Gold Nugget, and Golden Amber. Plus, I also added Flavor Delight and Sha Kar Pareh Apriums. Both the Tropic Gold graft in the multi-grafted stone fruit tree and the full tree of it is blooming this week. Earligold is almost done blooming, and Flavor Delight and Blenheim are about to open. We have had about 400 chill hours this year which should be enough chill for all the varieties. Hopefully, their blooms will wait just a little longer until after the rain passes by next week.

new grafts of low chill apricots
My newly added apricot grafts on the multigrafted stone fruit tree. I will change the tags on all the grafts that take, typically after a few months. Almost all the blossoms seen in this photo are apricot, but there are grafts of pluots, plums, and apriums on the tree as well.

Last year, I asked the owner of that old neighborhood apricot tree if she knew what kind it was. I was disappointed, but not surprised, to find out she doesn’t know. It is growing in a similar exposure to my new tree, with winter shade from a house and mostly sunny in the summer, planted about 8 to 10 feet from the north-facing side of the house. It started blooming this year right about the same time as my Earligold. Maybe it is Earligold? Newcastle was already leafed out before her tree started to bloom. I was planning to ask her for scion wood this winter, but she pruned it around Thanksgiving before I got around to asking. Maybe I will remember this next winter. I am looking forward to some more apricots this June.

tropic gold blooms forum blog
A few of the Tropic Gold blossoms and swelling flower buds up close.

I would love to know what you think about this.

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