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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Prunus x 'Blireana' - Blireana Plum

The ubiquitous purpleleaf plums. So many planted for so few good reasons. Especially around here, they really don't perform as well as in colder climates, but I guess so many people bring with them the tress they know from elsewhere. In the top 5 trees planted in California.

Why the overall dislike you ask? Here they can't wait to bloom, but they do so poorly over a long period of time rather than going big for a short time. Then if you walk past them with pruners they send up so many suckers and water sprouts that you cannot keep up. They generally have a poor branching pattern with most of the primary branches all originating from the same place eventually splitting. On some varieties the root stock sends up a fast growing sucker and half your tree has the preferred pink flowers and the other is white. Oh well, at least they are short lived.

So, let's start off with the earliest blooming member of the purpleleaf plums (PLP), Prunus x 'Blireana'. The blireana plum is the first to bloom, the prettiest and the pinkest of the PLP.

Habit wise, it is very much shorter than the others, rarely have I seen one over 15 feet. They rarely develop into a nice looking tree, branches go every which way and there are usually dead branches. These are nicer looking ones in RDM.




The dark pink double flowers are the key to identifying this small tree. If you are in a colder climate it is also the one with the most dead wood, being significantly less hardy than most of the others. It will bloom at least 10 days earlier than the other PLP's.



Another key identification key is the odd looking bumps on the main trunk.


The foliage turns a dirty green by mid summer and you have lost the beauty of having a purple leaf tree. (Get a Forest Pansy Redbud or a nice standard Royal Purple Smoketree instead.)


A hybrid of P. cerasifera 'Atropurpurea' and a double form of P. mume. (Japanese Flowering Apricot) This is perhaps why it is less hardy.

As mentioned in Arthur Lee Jacobson's book (Purpleleaf Plums, 1996), the best redeeming value is to bring in branches to force into bloom.

So where are they located?
Two sad ones on the corner of Los Altos and Club House in Rio Del Mar.
Three pitiful ones on Mar Vista at Pine St, Seacliff area
three more really sad ones on the corner of Marina and Beach Rd in Aptos Flats.

How about some nice specimens?

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