My sad little "Burgundy" Plum tree is finally producing plums! The first year we planted it I think we got one or two plums, then the next few years, no plums at all. My husband kept asking me if it was an ornamental plum tree. Then last year we got about half a dozen plums and this year there are easily three times that many on our little tree! A couple have already ripened, but most are still on the tree and look like the photo below.
When they are perfectly ripe the skin turns the lovely burgundy shade that the variety is named for, and the flesh is a deep red and very flavorful. But I really had no idea what they would taste like when I chose this variety, since you never see Burgundy plums at the market. I selected it purely on the basis of its description in the Sunset Western Garden Book that said it was self-fertile and didn't require a lot of winter chilling. It's a Japanese variety as opposed to a European variety, which generally means that it's less cold hardy and it blooms earlier. In our climate this is not a problem since we rarely have any frost, let alone a late spring frost. But generally, it's hard to grow really good stone fruits along he coast of Southern California. So many of the varieties of peaches, nectarines, plums, apples and pears require a certain number of hours of winter chill. So selecting the right variety is key.
Then there's the whole pruning issue. One year I didn't prune it all, another year I pruned it too much. This last year I went to a workshop at our local nursery (La Sumida Nursery) and I learned that you don't need to prune it too much because it bears on one year old stems. I think the one year I pruned it, I cut off every bit of one year old growth and that's why we didn't get plums that year. But you do want to prune and shape it each year and make sure it doesn't have too much of the little twiggy growth that it tends to get. I wasn't entirely sure it all made sense, but I went home and clipped a little here and and chopped a little there. Then I really meant to spray it with dormant oil but somehow never found the time. And all this laziness has paid off in the largest crop of plums yet. My formerly sad little plum tree is now one of the features of my garden.