Having a mature fruit tree in your yard is a blessing for a gardener. They provide an abundance of yummy edible goodness, look great, and require little maintenance as compared to your average vegetable garden. When buying our current house I was pleasantly surprised to learn that two mature trees in our front yard were actually a peach tree and an purple leaf plum tree. The Purple Leaf Plum is considered an ornamental fruit tree, but it does provide a lot of 1-1.5 inch fruit that tastes just as good as any plum you have ever bought from a store.
Both trees provided my family (and the local squirrels) with a lot of fruit for about 3 years, and then we started to see changes. Peach production cut drastically in the fourth year – almost in half – and then the fifth year gave us only one or two peaches. The Purple Leaf Plum was a gorgeous tree for four years and then in the fifth year only leafed out about 50% of the previous year. This year, it didn’t leaf out at all.
So what happened to my beloved trees?
Well, the peach tree wasn’t really a shock. The previous owner planted it in a terrible location. A much larger ficus tree was slowly shading out all of the front yard and the peach tree was now underneath the huge canopy. I tried my best to keep the tree properly pruned and fertilized, but with less and less sun each month. It finally died. By the time I cut the tree down, the roots were so dead that the tree basically just pushed over.
The plum tree’s demise was more of a shock to me. It was lovely in spring when it flowered and the purple leaf color was a lovely addition to the landscaping. What I didn’t know, was how short the lifespan of a purple leaf plum is – only 10 years. We had the house for 5 years and it was already a fully grown tree at that time so I’m sure it was at least 10 years old when it finally died.
Very sad changes to my yard, but this is also a good lesson for fans of fruit trees. Before buying/planting a tree, check it’s lifespan and keep that information handy to diagnose future problems.
In the end, I will not plant another tree where the peach tree was, since nothing would grow under such a heavy canopy from the larger ficus. The plum tree, however, was replaced by a young Babcock peach tree (lifespan – 15-20 years).