Damsons were first cultivated in Damascus and were brought to Britain by the Romans.
Damsons are oval in shape and have smooth yellow-green flesh with dark blue to purple skins. The fruit is acidic making it ideal for use in jams or jellies. Another good use for the damson is for making damson gin, where, because of the sweetness of the fruit less sugar is needed compared to making sloe gin. Damson ‘Merryweather’ is a nice dual-purpose variety which can be cooked or eaten straight from the tree.
Damsons are early flowering so they require protection from frost. Damsons are quite happy grown in a hedge although they are best grown in a sunny position with some protection from morning sun to prevent fruits from splitting. Grow in moderately fertile, moist, well-drained neutral to slightly acidic soils.
Rootstocks in order of their vigour are outlined below: –
Pixy – Dwarf. An ideal rootstock for the smaller garden. It needs to be grown in fertile and weed-free soil. It will reach a height of 2.4-3m. Trees grown on this rootstock will bear fruit within 3 years. Use for dwarf bushes, dwarf pyramids, and small fans.
St. Julian A – Semi-Vigorous. A good rootstock for most soils. Trees grown on this rootstock will reach a height of 3-3.5m. Trees grown on this rootstock will bear fruit within 4-5 years. Use for bushes, half-standards, and fans.
Damsons are available as bare-root one-year-maidens from November to March. Trained forms of Damsons are available in 12 litre pots all-year-round.