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Old Green Gage plum trees

Prunus domestica

Old Green Gage is the definitive "gage", and often considered the best flavored of any plum variety.

It is described by Victorian fruit enthusiast Robert Hogg as "tender, melting, and very juicy, with a rich, sugary and most delicious flavor", whilst H.V. Taylor in 'The Plums of England' (1949) rates it as "For all purposes unsurpassed".

Taylor also mentions the "light and uncertain" crops which is the main horticultural difficulty with Old Green Gage, although in our experience cropping can be good once the tree is established - in any case this is a small price to pay for such excellence of flavor.

Compared to the attractive coloring of most plums, the appearance of Old Green Gage fruit is fairly plain - the plums are quite small and a dull green color, turning slightly yellow when ripe. However this is one that you grow for flavor - for eating fresh it is exceptional.

 

Old Green Gage plum trees for sale

Pot-grown

All pot-grown trees are suitable for planting out in the garden, some are suitable for growing in containers.

  • PG1Fan-trained 12L pot-grown tree St. Julien rootstock £62.50
    Large tree (3m-4m after 10 years)
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Bare-root

  • BR11-year bare-root tree VVA-1 rootstock £22.95
    Medium tree (2m-3m after 10 years)
    Out of stock
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  • BR21-year bare-root tree Wavit rootstock £24.45
    Large tree (3m-4m after 10 years)
    Out of stock
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  • BR31-year bare-root tree St. Julien rootstock £22.95
    Large tree (3m-4m after 10 years)
  • BR42-year half-standard bare-root tree St. Julien rootstock £34.95
    Large tree (3m-4m after 10 years)
  • BR51-year bare-root tree Brompton rootstock £22.95
    Very large tree (4m-7m after 10 years)

How to grow

The gages are more fussy in their growing requirements than other plums and Old Greengage is no exception. Taylor in "The Plums of England" mentions the "light and uncertain" crops which is perhaps main horticultural difficulty with Old Green Gage, although in our experience cropping can be good once the tree is established - in any case this is a small price to pay for such excellence of flavour. It is worth remembering that the natural home of most gages is France and Italy - so for more northerly climates such as the UK you need to reproduce the French climate. This is most easily achieved by training the tree as a fan on a south-facing wall, or planting it as a free-standing tree in a sunny sheltered spot in the garden.

However although it likes a warm sunny summer, Old Green Gage is surprisingly hardy and will tolerate cold winter weather.

Old Greengage is generally considered partially self-fertile but having another pollination partner nearby will definitely help to improve cropping. Old Greengage can be pollinated by most other plum and gage varieties.

If the tree sets a lot of fruit after a good spring, be sure to thin the fruitlets, otherwise the plums will be small and have less flavour.

Advice on fruit tree pollination.

History

Old Green Gage has a fascinating history. The gages are usually included within the European plum species Prunus domestica, but are nevertheless a distinct sub-group, being smaller and more spherical, and usuall green or yellow. They have been cultivated in France since the Middle Ages having been introduced from Italy. In France the many different varieties of green-skinned gages are known collectively as "Reine Claude" after Queen Claude, the wife of Francis I who ruled France from 1515 to 1547. Old Green Gage is believed to be the same variety as the French Grosse Reine Claude.

It is generally thought that Old Green Gage was introduced to the UK from France in the 18th century by Sir William Gage, who lived at Bury St. Edmunds and obtained a tree from his brother who was a priest living in Paris. As a result of his promotion of this new variety all green plums tend to be known as "Gages" in the UK. However, whilst Sir William is undoubtedly responsible for the English name, and the Old Green Gage in particular, there is some evidence that his was in fact a re-introduction of a variety already widely grown in England known as Verdoch, which may have come to England from Italy in the Middle Ages.

Green-skinned gages were subsequently introduced to the USA in the late 18th century where they are also generally known as Green Gages.

Old Green Gage characteristics

Growing

  • Gardening skillExperienced
  • Self-fertilityNot self-fertile
  • Flowering group3
  • Pollinating othersAverage
  • Climate suitabilityTemperate climates

Using

  • Picking seasonLate
  • CroppingGood
  • Keeping (of fruit)1-3 days
  • Food usesEating fresh
  • Flavour style (apples)Sweeter

Problems

  • Disease resistancePoor
  • Fruit splittingSome susceptibility

Climate

    Identification

    • Country of originFrance
    • Period of origin1550 - 1599
    • Fruit colourGreen