Hello, Japanese apricot. 

Japanese Apricot
Credit: Carolyn Choi

Carolyn Choi of Chapel Hill, North Carolina is a fabulous painter, uber-patriot, accomplished gardener, and Grumpy's friend. So when she published a photo on Facebook of this beautiful tree blooming in her garden right now, only one logical response presented itself—rip off the picture (with credit, of course) and tell you more about it.

Few people know Japanese apricot (Prunus mume), because unlike flowering peach, pear, and cherry, in most places where it grows well (USDA Zones 6-9), it doesn't bloom in spring. It blooms in the depth of winter. Sometimes it pays a price for this, as sudden arctic blasts torch the open flowers, but then it always seems to pop open some more later.

The fragrant, spicy flowers may be single or double in colors of red, white, or pink. The most popular selection, ‘Peggy Clarke,' boasts double deep-pink blossoms and is shown above in Carolyn's garden. Japanese apricot eventually develops into a gnarled, picturesque tree 15 to 20 feet tall and wide. It's generally tougher and longer-lived than most other flowering fruit trees. Not a true apricot, it bears small, tart fruit from which you can make jelly and jam.

Give Japanese apricot full to part sun and acid soil. Good drainage is essential. It's more likely to be found at a good local garden center than a big box store. It's also available online from Camellia Forest Nursery and Whitman Farms.

Ask the Grump! No question goes unanswered on his Facebook page.

Thanks for posting, Carolyn! Your imaginary check for 10 Grumpy Drachma is on its way.