Gold Ridge Farm Tour: The Present

This page covers Spots 9-12.
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We've continued straight ahead, leaving the grassy areas, and returning to the trail shown on the site map. We're standing at the path's fork and, as you may have realized, we've arrived at Spot #9, the Multi-Grafted English Walnut. This is a "mother" tree and has several different types of walnut, each type on its own grafted branch. Although we're not close enough at this picture, the leaf and nut variations are easily spotted.

Grafting is a process of "jump-starting" young plants. A "mother" tree is needed to support a bud or branch from another species. Luther Burbank often used walnut or almond trees as "mother" trees because both tree types are relatively disease and pest -free. The bud or branch of the desired species would then be attached to the "mother" tree. Instead of starting a new plant from seedlings, grafting can allow a horticulturist to skip years of growth to see the progress of the new species. This process was great for Luther Burbank and allowed him to conduct literally thousands of plant experiments at one time. Luther Burbank used this process to create hundreds of new fruit varieties.

Up the Orchard Hill

We've traveled up the path, which is heading gently uphill. Turning back, we can take one last look at the Multi-Grafted Walnut.

The Fruit Orchard

We are entering Spot #10, Burbank Fruit Trees. The Multi-Grafted walnut is behind us, to the right. This is the main area for Burbank fruit trees, although they are planted in several other areas as well. Many of the trees are plums. When the trees at the farm were carefully documented after Luther Burbank's death, over 100 different varieties of plums were noted. Many trees had 5-15 different fruit types on them.

"With fruit trees you have only just begun after a dozen years of crossing, growing, testing, and selecting."

- Luther Burbank (How Plants are Trained to Work for Man)

Plum Experiments

If you enjoy juicy plums in the summer, you should probably thank Luther Burbank! Before him, most plums were small, not very sweet , and pit. (It was the pits!) Through very conscious experimentation, Mr. Burbank tried to breed the characteristics that he wanted (increased size, sweetness, transportability) and get rid of unwanted characteristics(that big pit!). Luther Burbank is best known perhaps for the Santa Rosa Plum, still very popular today. The fruit trees in this section are Burbank varieties (plums especially!) and are all pretty young. These were planted by the Western Sonoma County Historical Society. Some trees even have young grafts on them.

Fruit in Summer

In April, during the annual Open House for the Farm, the fruit trees are blossoming. It is a beautiful time of year at the farm. What do those blossoms produce in July? Fruit! The WSCHS doesn't really want visitors to pick the fruit; but I do know, from a very reliable source, that the fruit tastes as good as it looks....

More Seedless Grapes

We've backtracked a bit down the side trail shown on the map above. We are at Spot #11, "White Seedless" grapes. This is another pretty grape arbor, with the same variety as the first grape arbor.

Over the years, Mr. Burbank 75,000 - 100, 000 grape seedlings. He did have some success with grapes, but made no real attempt to introduce his efforts to the public. These experiments were a work in progress.

Side trip: Plumcots

A plumcot is a cross between a plum and an apricot. Because of all the different types of plums and apricots, a plumcot can come in a variety of colors and flavors. Mr. Burbank's work with plumcots truly demonstrated the patience that a plant breeder needs: "Had I known how much time and labor and patience these experiments would demand, I might never have undertaken them," Mr. Burbank wrote. Yet he also felt that plumcots were "the first addition to the list of orchard fruits that has been developed within historical times." (How Plants are Trained to Work for Man)

These grape vines are "enthusiastic" and seem to be reaching for the plumcot tree next to them.

Struggling Plumcot

This tree just happens to be Spot #11, Plumcot. This is one of the original trees from Mr. Burbank's time, but it is struggling. As you can see, the tree lost a significant portion of its trunk. Despite this, it has produced fruit on one branch, but may not do so for much longer.

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