Ron Ludekens

Ron Ludekens

Monday, 21 July 2014 18:42

Water Wise Landscape Trees & Plants

L.E. Cooke Water Wise Landscape Trees & Plants List

As I write this the West is in a serious drought.  Droughts or low rainfall years are not uncommon in the West.  In the last few years we have seen several drought issues in Texas and even in Georgia and the Southeast.  Cycles in rainfall and water availability happen.  Surely, I have no desire to open the can of worms as to the causes or engage in that debate in this article.  Historically we all have cycles of more or less rainfall / snow pack.

In our catalog, we have marked a column for "Drought Tolerant".  There are many varieties that have a check mark in that column.  So what does that mean for L.E. Cooke Customers?

Does Drought Tolerant mean it can live in the Mojave Desert like a cactus?

Is a Drought Tolerant tree in Arizona the same as a drought tolerant tree in Georgia?

Since we sell trees all over North America, the topic of Drought Tolerance is complicated.

The news will report a drought emergency in the East when it does not rain for 3-4 weeks in the summer because the farmers depend on nature to supply the rain for their crops.  Whereas in the West a drought emergency is declared when 3-4 years of below normal rainfall occurs and the reservoirs become depleted.  Clearly each region differs in needs and intensity.


This statement by the USDA helps (or confuses depending on how well you know your regional choice of trees).

The USDA statement on Drought Tolerance: What is the relative tolerance of the plant to drought conditions compared to other species with the same growth habit from the same geographical region? Drought tolerance is defined here in the following fashion: Imagine that in an acre of land there are low areas that have heavy soil and tend to accumulate more soil moisture, and higher areas that have coarse textured soil and tend to accumulate less soil moisture. Some plant species are most frequently found growing in the higher areas with the coarse soil texture. These plant species are considered to be more drought tolerant than the species that are frequently found in the low areas with fine textured soil.


This statement on the North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension website is also useful:

NC State Univeersity Logo

Disclaimer: Most plant prefer a moist, well drained soil. However, provided a plant is otherwise healthy, has had time to become established (normally one to two years after planting), and is provided appropriate cultural conditions (adequate soil drainage and aeration, mulch, moderate to low fertilization, proper pH, appropriate light level, etc.) those plants indicated as drought tolerant should be able to survive a moderate period of limited moisture (rainfall, irrigation). Drought tolerance does not mean the plants prefer hot, dry weather or that they will not be adversely affected by extended dry weather. Some decrease in growth or flowering can be expected during a period of limited moisture. Severe drought can result in increased insect and disease pressure, a decrease in leaf size and number, and a overall decline in growth rate and plant vigor. High temperatures and wind, heat and light reflection from near by hard surfaces, and high fertilization can increase the potentially damaging effects of low moisture on plant growth and survival. Fall planted trees and shrubs have demonstrated an increased ability to survive moderate moisture levels compared to those transplanted in the spring or summer. (Link to the above)


The following is a list of those items in our catalog that meet this guideline for drought tolerance in their normal habitat:

L.E. Cooke Water Wise Landscape Trees & Plants List


Additional References:

SelecTree: A Tree Selection Guide (Cal Poly University San Luis Obispo / Urban Forest Ecosystems Institute)

Texas Tree Planting Guide (Texas A&M)

Drought Tolerant Trees for Colorado Landscapes (Colorado State Forest Service)

Ron Ludekens 7-17-2014


Wednesday, 26 March 2014 00:11

Galaxy Peach History

Galaxy Peach


Saucer peaches have a long history.  Galaxy was a new introduction from David Ramming, USDA - Fresno in 2003.  It has Armking x Firebright x Sunfre and numbered crosses not released.

We sold Australian Saucer peach prior to 1955 which was very similar to Stark's Donut (Saturn) Peach.  The nickname Donut Peach made for good sales even today.  Galaxy is a much larger Donut or Saucer peach.  Donut, Saucer, Saturn peaches are freestone.  Galaxy is semi-cling.

The skin of Galaxy is colorful - white with 50-60% overlay with red/blush. The flesh is a sweet clear white, firm, with melting texture.  Galaxy ripens at the same time as Donut (Saturn) in late June.  The fruit is very showy on the tree with its large size.

Robert Ludekens 12-27-2013

Galaxy Peach Information Page - Point of Sale Page

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Tuesday, 25 March 2014 22:49

Italian Everbearing Fig History

Italian Everbearing Fig


The L. E. Cooke Co Italian Everbearing Fig came from George Roeding, Jr. of Niles, California.  In 1901 John Rock imported Riviera Fig (Italian) to Niles.  It came from Thomas River and Son, London, England.  The L. E. Cooke Co received it in 1970 and began production in 1975.

The tree has strong dense growth.  The fruit is darker than Brown Turkey and Texas Everbearing.  The tree sets heavily with larger fruit than Texas Everbearing.  I believe hardier than Texas Everbearing.

I have liked this selection for its heavy set on a bush growth and easy to pick a very tasty fig.  It is a reddish brown color.

Robert Ludekens 12-31-2013

Italian Everbearing Big Information Page - Point of Sale Page

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Tuesday, 25 March 2014 22:20

Santa Barbara Peach History

Santa Barbara Peach



Approximately 1984 I received a call from Frank Mori at Kata-Shi Nursery, Goleta, California.  A customer Paul Herrigal had purchased one of our Ventura Peaches (Hale type) and it had Elberta type fruit.

I drove to Goleta to see the tree and fruit.  Ventura fruit is round and this fruit was pointed similar to Elberta with melting soft texture of an Elberta with a good flavor and high sugar.  I cut some budwood for research in Visalia.

Two years later I received a call from John Bauman, Palos Verdes Begonia Farm, in Torrance, California.  He had a customer with a tree with Elberta fruit growing near the ocean.  I asked him where it came from and he replied - "L. E. Cooke Co."  I asked what was sold to his customer.  They could not locate any sales record.  I inquired if possibly a Ventura and John said that is the name his customer thought it was.

The L. E. Cooke Co had six Ventura trees in the orchard for scion wood.  We discovered the last tree had one limb in the center - a sport producing the Elberta quality fruit.

The staff named this selection from Goleta Santa Barbara and we have produced all trees from that original selection.  We now have an Elberta quality fruit producing on the coast.

This Ventura sport has several advantages over all other mild winter varieties.  Santa Barbara peach is large pointed fruit similar to Elberta, very colorful with yellow red blush skin, yellow, freestone, melting fine texture flesh, and red near the pit.  Excellent sweet flavor.  Santa Barbara peach produces fruit in lower chill areas than even Ventura peach.  We now list Santa Barbara at 200 hours vs. 400 - 500 hours for Ventura peach.

The L. E. Cooke Co. went into production of Santa Barbara peach July 1990.

It was not long before Santa Barbara peach became our largest selling peach variety.  This selection produces Elberta quality in the San Joaquin Valley as it did in Southern California on the coast.  A young tree sets fruit and has a good crop.  Like most high sugar fruit, it does not hold up more than 2 to 3 days.

In Visalia, the Santa Barbara peach ripens from July 8 - 15; late July in Goleta, and earlier in Southern California.  We are fortunate to have such a quality fruit for the mild winter areas.  This sport is one of many examples of new variety discovered on one limb of a tree producing a different fruit.  This is nature's way of hybridizing.

Robert Ludekens 12-27-2013

Santa Barbara Peach Information Page - Point of Sale Page


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Tuesday, 25 March 2014 08:57

Persimmon History

Fuyu Imoto

Fuyu Imoto Persimmon



In North America there has been confusion on persimmons.  Our native American Persimmon was not very edible so the market production of fruit was slow and the public showed little interest to sample.


Japan and China grew the Asian Persimmons and the Japanese sold them in Europe.  By the time these Asian Persimmons arrived in California, the names were mixed, there were new crosses and also rootstock confusion.


Orange County Nursery became the early major persimmon grower for the United States nurseries.  The L. E. Cooke bought from Orange County into the 1970's, as did all others.  The Orange County owners made trips to Japan to bring back new selections.


California, through UC Davis and the Persimmon Association, brought in Kay Ryugo for most of a year to study all the California persimmons. The persimmon we were and still sell for Fuyu (aka Jiro) Persimmon is what he called a "California Fuyu".  No need to change because all farmers know it as Fuyu Jiro.


Unfortunately the first persimmons in the U.S. markets were the American or Hachiya which need to be eaten fully ripe or it was very astringent.  Still, even in 2014, people are hesitant to eat a persimmon for fear of the astringency.  Persimmons are now well accepted in California, but surprisingly much of the rest of the country still only recalls the puckery experience or heard about the American or Hachiya persimmons.  I am amazed at the nursery people who will still not sell a persimmon because of the "bitter" fruit.  If you visit the L. E. Cooke Co in the fall, I attempt to have a visitor sample a Fuyu Persimmon.  What a surprise when they want to take a box of fruit home.


We brought seven named varieties from Japan to avoid some mixed up confusion in California.  Several were lost in travel and quarantine.  All were already here so we did not "introduce" any except IMOTO FUYU PERSIMMON.  The facts on Fuyu Imoto are basically the same as Fuyu Jiro except a little larger and about 7-10 days earlier.  The Imoto selection came from commercial orchardist Mr. Mike Imoto in Lindsay, CA.  We grew it for him and he allowed the company to add it to our catalog.  I assume Imoto is a California Fuyu sport.


Imoto Persimmon's advantage is slightly larger and earlier fruiting.


The L. E. Cooke Co introduced Fuyu Imoto in 1985.


Bob Ludekens 1-28-2014

Fuyu Imoto Persimmon Information Page - Point of Sale Page

Fuyu Imoto Additional Photos

Information Pages for Other Persimmons

Photos for other Persimmons

Tuesday, 25 March 2014 07:28

Inca Plum History

Inca Plum



Inca is an old plum last in production in the 1940's or 50's.  It is a 1919 Luther Burbank introduction.  There is an old tree in El Monte, California.  A local nursery wanted the Company to grow 50 trees for him.  We planted Inca in our orchard.  The sales staff began to pick and bring to the office.  Everyone wanted to know why we did not produce Inca.  I believe it was only originally available for commercial farmers.


The Company has been growing Inca since 2001 and put it in the catalog for sales in 2011.  Sales are up to 600 - 700.  Inca is a medium, heart shaped, and tapers toward the tip.  The skin is a beautiful golden color when ripe and has brilliant magenta specks and a magenta blush around the stem.  The flesh is yellow, rich, dense, and crisp.  The flavor is unique with a perfect balance of tart and sweet.  The variety is self fertile, ripens in early to mid August, and requires 250 - 300 hours chilling.  It is good for Southern California.


Inca is not ours but a re-introduction from commercial to a backyard selection.


Bob Ludekens 1-16-2014

Inca Plum Information Page - Point of Sale Page

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Tuesday, 25 March 2014 06:59

Sweet and White Pomegranate History

Sweet Pomegranate


Chico State University brought in many varieties of Pomegranates from the Middle East.  I wanted a good White and Sweet selection.  Mike Spratley, L. E. Cooke Co salesman since 1979, is a graduate of Chico State and was aware of their large collection.  I asked Mike to obtain a good Sweet and White.  He obtained about 15 or 20 White and many Sweet.

The L.E. Cooke Co grew all of these selections to observe the fruit and to choose the best of each.  This took several years to obtain fruit and then to slowly review and eliminate a few and still review the others seeking the best fruit and production.  This is not an easy task and you need to locate many people who like pomegranates to review.  After eating a few, you need to try again another day.  Not everyone will agree.  The goal was to have everyone to agree on those that needed to be dropped so the following years there are fewer to review.

In 1984 we selected our best Sweet and in1994 added our White Sweet, now just called White.  We took the time because we wanted the best.  We even compared some after we were in production to affirm we had the best selections.

Sweet Pomegranate

Sweet Pomegranate

SWEET POMEGRANATE is large, orange-red flower, pink skin in the fall.  The flesh color is light pink, not nearly as deep as Wonderful.  The fruit is sweet and juicy when ripe.  Grows to 10 feet, and fruit ripens early September before Wonderful.

White Pomegranate Cut Open

White Pomegranate Cut Open

WHITE POMEGRANATE is large, orange-red flower, coral skin in the fall.  Flesh color is transparent white and the fruit is very sweet and juicy when ripe.  Plant grows to 12 feet, and fruit ripens early September before Wonderful.

Bob Ludekens 1-10-2014

Sweet Pomegranate Information Page - Point of Sale Page

Sweet Pomegranate Additional Photos

White Pomegranate Information Page - Point of Sale Page

White Pomegranate Additional Photos

Sunday, 23 March 2014 15:33

Conadria Fig History

Conadria Fig


This fig was introduced by Ira J. Condit at California Ag Experiment Station, Riverside.  We have a copy of a 1955 book written by Mr. Condit naming more than 1,706 figs.

Mr. Condit introduced Conadria in 1955 but is not included in his book.  This fig is a cross of Adriatic x California 72-80 (Caprifig). It was selected in 1955 and became available to a few commercial growers.

The L. E. Cooke Co has produced Conadria since 1956.  Conadria is a large white fig, light green skin, sweet flavor; cream/strawberry, very firm flesh.  It is good for drying and table use.  The fig holds well on the tree and the small eye makes it resistant to spoilage. The tree is a large grower and produces solid, heavy figs.

Back in the late 1950's I worked with Oscar Gray, Arlington, Texas who wanted a large fast growing fig for the Ft. Worth-Dallas area.  Most fig trees would freeze in this area.  Conadria grew well for Mr. Gray and he made many sales until his retirement.

The L. E. Cooke Co introduced Conadria to the trade from Mr. Condit.

Bob Ludekens 12-31-2013

Conadria Fig Information Page - Point of Sale Page

More Photos

Sunday, 23 March 2014 14:53

Black Jack Fig History

Black Jack Fig

BLACK JACK FIG (Olney Strain)

Armstrong Nursery provided this fig.  The fig is purple with strawberry red, juicy, sweet flesh.  The tree is a natural dwarf, our orchard trees are a maximum of 6' tall with pruning.

The fruit is plentiful and sets 30 days before Black Mission and holds better on the tree.  Our fruit ripens late July through November.  Armstrong recommended all zones from coast to desert valleys in the southern United States.  I agree as the Black Jack does well close to the ocean and is one of our best producers with our San Joaquin Valley 110° F. heat.  The abundant figs are easy to pick from the compact tree.

Robert Ludekens 12-31-2013

Black Jack Fig Information Page - Point of Sale Page

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Sunday, 23 March 2014 14:17

Utah Giant Cherry History

Utah Giant Cherry



This cherry originated in Logan, Utah by USDA and Utah Ag Experiment Station.  A seedling of a Napa long stem Bing Cherry was introduced in 1981.  The L. E. Cooke Co. received this variety in 1985.

The fruit is larger than Bing with firmer, dark red sweet flesh, outstanding flavor.  The pit is smaller than some cherry varieties and is freestone.  The skin is a colorful mahogany and has some resistance to Western X Disease. This cherry is very popular in Utah. We like the large fruit in Visalia.  The Utah Giant ripens from late May to early June.

Robert Ludekens 12-30-213

Utah Giant Cherry Information Page - Point of Sale Page

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