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Plum and Green Gage Pruning

februarysgirlfebruarysgirl LeicesterPosts: 570
Back in December '19 I planted a Victoria plum, a Czar plum and an Old Green Gage. All on pixy rootstock (although I have my doubts about the Czar plum) and all 2 years old at the time. I let them be last summer as they hadn't been in the ground (well, open bottomed raised beds) that long so have been looking to prune them this year. I've taken off all of the lower branches which were spoiling the look and some of the really obvious ones that were crossing. As the following photos will show, they've all grown a little haphazardly.

Victoria Plum.

Green Gage

Czar Plum (you can see why I have doubts about the pixy rootstock)

As you can see, they're a little on the wild side and need reigning in but I have no idea how much I should be taking off of the branches.

Pruning advice would be gratefully received!

Also, apologies for all the photos.


  • bertrand-mabelbertrand-mabel Posts: 1,702
    Very important not to prune them in winter as they can become diseased.
    Have a look at the following

    Good luck. The birds take the flowers from our plums and gages before they can set fruit.

  • februarysgirlfebruarysgirl LeicesterPosts: 570
    @betrand-mabel Hence why I'm making a start now!

    I've watched a few YouTube videos but am finding it difficult to apply the techniques to my trees beyond removing lower and crossing branches.

    The Czar is absolutely loaded with plums although I don't know how. I wasn't expecting any as it's a relatively young tree and it fruited last year. It has an awful lot of leaf curl 😬 My green gage hasn't fruited well this year and annoyingly, a lot of what was there was on the lower branches that needed to be removed. Gutted.
  • bertrand-mabelbertrand-mabel Posts: 1,702
    Bob Flowerdew on GQT Radio 4 has always said how difficult gages can be...and in our case he is so right.
    We have leaf curl on cherries and peaches but thankfully not plums or gages.
    Sad that you had to cut out the ones that were going to give you a harvest.
  • purplerallimpurplerallim LincolnshirePosts: 4,405
    The leaf curl is probably white fly, its bad this year.
    If you do the summer cut now you will reduce them as long as the cuts go into the bin straight away. 
    To shape a plum you have to decide first what that is, and how tall you wish it to become.  And yes even on dwarf root stock it will still put out 4/6 feet of growth. You do realise they will need 6 feet of space to grow into each.
    The one with the house behind is a lovely shape, just needs the limbs reduced by half.
    The others need to be trained. I used bricks on the end of strings to hold the branches at the angle I wanted, for a year, which set them at that shape, then cut back the side stems to three buds.

    This is March two years ago. After the strings had been removed, pruned to a Christmas tree shape, which I have kept at about 7 foot, it is a victoria plum on dwarf root.
    Thought I would show this picture as at pruning time you can't see the tree for the leaves.😁
  • LiriodendronLiriodendron Scariff, County Clare, IrelandPosts: 7,568
    @purplerallim is right IMO about reducing the limbs by half.  You want them to thicken up so that they can bear the weight of a full crop later on - unpruned Victoria plum trees often split branches when they have a lot of fruit, which spoils the shape of the tree, as well as letting in disease.

    I think I'd be even more drastic with the greengage.  After all, you don't (presumably) want a 20ft tree, so it makes sense to try to take it down to a height where you might conceivably be able to pick the fruit in future.  The following Youtube clip is interesting because the guy has removed the leading stem down to about 4ft, by the looks of things.   :)

    "The one who plants trees, knowing that he will never sit in their shade, has at least started to understand the meaning of life."  Rabindranath Tagore
  • februarysgirlfebruarysgirl LeicesterPosts: 570
    @bertrand-mabel We had green gages in our garden when I was a kid, absolutely huge things and a crazy amount of fruit every year. We lost a couple of them in storm of '87 but there was still no shortage. Unfortunately, they're all gone now. My dad sold the house 10 or so years ago and they got yanked out by the person who bought it 😔

    @purplerallim I love your approach to training, I'll definitely give your technique a go. I inadvertently "shaped" the Victoria plum during the winter. I put a fleece jacket over it and the green gage (wasn't one big enough for the Czar) and the branches got a little misshapen. What time of year would you recommend putting weight on the branches?

    @Liriodendron The thickening of branches is one thing I was wondering about as a lot of the branches are really weedy and I was worried about the effect future fruit would have on them. Alas, I'm only 4ft 10 so the height can't be crazy.

    Thank you all for your advice!
  • LiriodendronLiriodendron Scariff, County Clare, IrelandPosts: 7,568
    Me too, @februarysgirl .  4ft 10, I mean...   :)

    We have a 30ft cooking apple in this garden.  I only pick the apples from the bottom few feet, which is a waste... except the fruit higher up feeds the wildlife! 
    "The one who plants trees, knowing that he will never sit in their shade, has at least started to understand the meaning of life."  Rabindranath Tagore
  • purplerallimpurplerallim LincolnshirePosts: 4,405
    The strings should go on now, when you do the pruning. They are soft enough to bend into shape, if not then you my have to use new branches to replace ones in the wrong shape. It needs to be open for the wind to blow through to stop disease taking hold, that's why the horizontal branches are far apart, leaving room for the side branches @februarysgirl
  • I'm ruthless with the pruning of my victoria plum and 2 gages. Once new new growth is approx 12" it is cut back to 2-3 leafs. This needs tp be repeated approx monthly during the growing season. It results in a sturdy compact tree. The main problem I have is aphid attack with the risk of virus damage. I spray approx every month after flowering with an insectacide- if I don't spray the trees tend to be short lived.
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