AVALON PLUM TREE
By David Marks
Avalon is a relatively new variety of plum tree which was bred to be better than Victoria. In many aspects, notably taste and disease resistance this is a far superior variety. In one area however it falls below the standards of its rival and that is in its ability to grow well in adverse and cold conditions.
For Avalon to thrive it needs average or good conditions and it does best when it is in a protected position.
PARENTAGE OF AVALON PLUM TREES
Not known, it was bred at Long Ashton Research Station (which closed in 2003) in Bristol and was first released to the market in 1989 making this one of a select few of the recent plum tree varieties.
APPEARANCE, TASTE AND CHARACTERISTICS OF AVALON PLUMS
Many descriptions of the Avalon plum tree claim that it is similar to the Victoria plum tree but in fact there are very significant differences between the two in taste, texture, fruit and flower production times, fertility and most importantly the conditions where it grows best. The connection between the two is really only limited to the stated intention of the breeders – to produce a plum tree better than Victoria.
As the plums ripen they first turn a pink-red colour and at this stage they are ideal for cooking use including making plum jam. The stone in the fruit comes away cleanly from the flesh making de-stoning an easy operation prior to cooking. We think Avalon makes some of the best plum jam ever.
(picture courtesy National Archives)
The fruit then ripens further and turns a deep purple-red colour, at this stage they are one of the best eating plums ever, certainly better than Victoria. Individual plums are just slightly larger than normal (5cm / 2in long and 3cm / 1½in wide on average) and of oval shape.
Avalon is not the fastest variety to produce fruit when it is initially planted, it can take a year longer to get going compared to other varieties. Once established it crops well and regularly. It can over-crop and this can have two undesirable effects the first of which is that a large number of the fruits do not develop to full ripeness. The second effect is that the sheer weight of the fruit can cause branches to break. Both of these can be avoided by correct pruning – see further down this article for advice.
Overall tree size is of course primarily dependent on the rootstock but also on the growing conditions. On average the following tree sizes by rootstock are for a fully grown tree after 7 years:
- St Julien A – unpruned height 4m / 13ft, pruned height 3.5m / 11ft
- VVA-1 – unpruned height 3.5m / 11ft, pruned height 2.5m / 8ft
- Pixy – unpruned 3m / 10ft. pruned height 2.5m / 8ft
Our advice, regarding rootstocks, for growing an Avalon plum tree in almost all conditions would be the St Julien A rootstock. You’ll get a decent sized, relatively vigorous tree which won’t swamp the average garden. If your garden is on the small size and your soil is well drained and nutrient rich it may be worth thinking about a Pixy rootstock. However, even in a smallish garden we would suggest that an appropriately pruned Avalon plum tree on Julien A rootstock would be your best bet.
Your tree should produce a small crop three years after it has been planted and will reach its full-cropping capability six years after planting. Unlike Victoria, Avalon should not be planted in exposed conditions.
One very common characteristic of this variety is that it over-crops. This can have two undesirable effects the first of which is that a large number of the fruits do not develop to full ripeness. The second effect is that the sheer weight of the fruit can cause branches to break. Both of these can be avoided by correct pruning – see below.
Another area where Avalon differs from Victoria is in disease resistance. Avalon has good disease resistance with no known significant weak areas.
PRUNING AVALON PLUM TREES
All the normal rules for pruning plum trees can be ground on our page dedicated to this subject which can be found here. If you have an old or neglected Avalon plum tree then more information about pruning these trees can be found here.
Specifically for Avalon plum trees we would suggest the following pruning regime which will be better suited to their known weaknesses:
- Pay special attention to thinning the fruits in mid June 2017 . This will reduce the weight of the fruit produced
and help to stop branches breaking under the weight of excessive fruit.
It will also help the remaining fruit to ripen fully.
- Prune in the first three years of your tree's life exactly as
described on our plum pruning page which can be found
here. This will establish a good basic shape.
- Only prune lightly in subsequent years but prune each year.
- If branches break cut them back to solid wood as soon as possible whatever time of year the breakage occurs. It's true that plum trees should best be pruned in June time but a breakage is an unavoidable type of self-pruning which will almost always result in damage which will let in infection. Far better to immediately prune back to solid wood and allow the tree to heal over the cut as quick as possible.
PESTS, DISEASES OF AVALON PLUM TREES
Avalon is admirably resistant to diseases which affect plum trees in general but if your tree
has problems then consult our pest and disease page.
POLLINATION PARTNERS FOR AVALON PLUM TREES
Avalon plum trees are in pollination group 2 and is only partially self-fertile so would do better with a pollination partner nearby. The following varieties are good pollination partners:
- Belle de Louvain - pollination group 3, self-fertile
- Cambridge Gage - pollination group 3, partially
- Coe's Golden Drop - pollination group 2, self-sterile, needs another pollination partner
- Czar - pollination group 3, self-fertile
- Denniston's Superb - pollination group 2, self-fertile
- Excalibur - pollination group 2, partially self-sterile
- Farleigh - pollination group 3, self-fertile
- Haganta - pollination group 3, partially self-fertile
- Herman - pollination group 2, self-fertile
- Jefferson - pollination group 2, self-sterile
- King Damson - pollination group 2, self-fertile
- Langley Bullace - pollination group 3, self-fertile
- Merryweather - pollination group 3, self-fertile
- Opal - pollination group 3, self-fertile
- Reine Claude de Bavay - pollination group 3, self-fertile
- Rivers Early Prolific - pollination group 2, partially self-fertile
- Sanctus Hubertus - pollination group 2, self-sterile, needs another pollination partner
- Victoria - pollination group 3, self- fertile
- Warwickshire Drooper - pollination group 2, self-fertile
- Yellow Pershore - pollination group 2, self-fertile
BUYING AN AVALON PLUM TREE
Avalon is available in larger garden centres and those which specialise in fruit trees. It is
not normally available in supermarkets and diy centres. It is widely available online and we would
recommend Blackmoor who, from our own personal experience, have good prices, prompt delivery and
offer a personal service if you have any queries.
Click here for the page where
they sell this variety.
SUMMARY CHARACTERISTICS OF AVALON PLUM TREE
USE: Cooking and eating
SKIN COLOUR / TEXTURE: Deep red-purple when fully ripe
FLESH COLOUR: Golden yellow
TASTE AND TEXTURE: When fully ripe it's sweet with a hint of background acidity, top quality. The skin is slightly thicker than average
FRUIT SIZE: Slightly larger than average
TREE SIZE: Average
REGULARITY OF CROPPING: Excellent
POLLINATION: Partially self-fertile
POLLINATION GROUP: 2
FULL NAME: Prunus domestica 'Avalon'
AWARDS: Not known
SPECIAL FEATURES: Good taste as an eater, good disease resistance.
AVALON FRUIT PRODUCTION TIME
The average flowering time (optimum time for pollination) and date when fruits are ripe in the UK for the Avalon plum tree are set out below. If you have set your home town we can give you a more accurate estimate, if you have not set your home town (do it now by clicking here) the dates below will be the average for the UK.
Your town has not been set, the average main flowering time for your Avalon plum tree in the UK is the last week of March. Fruit will be ready for picking in the second week of August. Click here if you want to set the dates to your home town.
Flowering and fruit production dates vary according to the weather in any particular growing season so the above dates may well change slightly from one year to the next. The flowering date above is when the plum tree produces the maximum number of blossoms, it will also produce blossom, although less, a week or two either side of the date given.
COMMENTS / QUESTIONS LEFT BY OUR READERS
|I have read with interest your very positive description of the Avalon plum tree. I purchased one about 6 years ago, it is now a medium sized tree, very healthy and plenty of new growth. but my problem is it hardly has any plums, perhaps five or six per year!! Being advertised as partially self fertile, I planted next to it an Opal plum tree, recommended as a pollinator for Avalon. The problem is that by the time the Opal blossom opens in the spring, the Avalon blossom is almost over. My experience is the Avalon blossoms incredibly early in the spring, before any insect pollinators have appeared, or most other plums have blossomed. The only thing I can think of is the location of my tree is a little exposed, apparently not the best position, but does that matter so much as to almost completely stop fruiting? If so, there should be a sales warning on them.
ANSWER: Firstly, the sum of my knowledge about plum trees not producing fruit is held in the link below and may be worth a read if you haven’t done so already, see here.
You don’t mention what area of the UK you live in, maybe it’s just too cold for a plum tree producing early blossom. Certainly Opal should flower not that much later than Avalon.
The only solution I can suggest that I don’t think I mention in the article above is next year try some hand pollination of the Avalon. You would be surprised how many = blossoms can be treated in this way over an hour or so. If hand pollination doesn’t increase the amount of fruit significantly then the probability is that the blossom is being damaged by external factors such as the weather.
Sorry I can’t offer more specific information.