Opal is probably the best-flavored early plum variety - indeed it is sometimes called a gage-like plum thanks to the excellence of its flavor. However the flavor depends crucially on developing sugars during the short growing period, and in northern gardens Opal really benefits from being grown in a sunny aspect. In less favourable situations it will still give good crops but with a less intense flavor.
The fruit is medium-sized, colored dusky red with a heavy bloom, becoming blue when overripe. The plums ripen over a period of about 1-2 weeks, so you don't have to deal with a glut. The flesh is straw-yellow and fairly juicy. Opal is a free-stone plum - the stone falls away easily from the flesh. If picked on a warm July day and placed in a fruit bowl Opal also has a wonderful aroma. This primarily a plum to eat fresh, but it is also useful for jams and fruit crumbles.
We recommend Opal because it is easy to grow in a variety of climates and provides good quality plums early in the season.
All pot-grown trees are suitable for planting out in the garden, some are suitable for growing in containers.
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Opal is very easy to grow, and crops reliably, so it is a good choice for almost any situation. However to really develop its flavour potential there are two simple things to consider. Firstly, it re-pays planting in a good sunny aspect. Growing as a fan along a south-facing wall will get the best results.
Secondly, Opal has the potential to produce a heavy crop, and in a good spring it is likely that too much of the blossom will set fruit. This will lead to a very large crop of very small plums which will lack flavour. If this seems to be happening, thin the fruitlets towards the end of May so that there is one plum per cluster, with about 2" / 5cm or so between each plum. Thinning plums is a tedious business, but you won't regret it as the ones left will be bigger and with better flavour.
Opal is a very winter hardy tree and a good choice for all areas of the UK.
Advice on fruit tree pollination.
Opal was developed in Sweden in 1925 from a cross between Oullins Gage and Early Favourite.