Ron Ludekens

Ron Ludekens

Sunday, 23 March 2014 10:40

Kansas Sweet Cherry History

Kansas Sweet Cherry


Willis Nursery, Ottawa, Kansas introduced Kansas Sweet as The flavor is somewhat sweet for a Prunus Cerasus or Sour Cherry.

The L. E. Cooke Co brought in the cherry in 1960 and put into production in 1965.  The tree is a small growing pie cherry which sets heavily even in the mild areas of Southern California.

The selection is not considered a sweet cherry but is sweeter than all other pie cherries, self fertile, and produces in a broad range of climates from the cold Midwest to the mild winter areas.  The fruit is large for a pie cherry, has red skin and flesh making it colorful.

Bob Ludekens 12-30-2013.

Kansas Sweet Cherry Information Page - Point of Sale Page

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Sunday, 23 March 2014 01:02

Early Ruby Cherry History


Patent #4150    11/15/77

Mr. Ralph Moore, Sequoia Miniature Rose Nursery, Visalia, California discovered a seedling cherry tree in his nursery.  It possibly came from an employee's lunch in the area.  As the tree grew, it produced yearly a good early crop of large cherries.  Since Mr. Moore did not have another cherry in the area and the tree produced annually, he felt it was self fertile.

Mr. Moore came to Bob Ludekens and they agreed the tree should be patented and to divide the royalty 50% to the Hume Lake Christian Conference and the balance to Boy Scouts of America, Mt. Whitney Council.  We, the L. E. Cooke Co were proud to partner with Mr. Moore.

Mr. Moore was knowledgeable on securing plant patents so he did the work for the cherry we named Early Ruby.  We masked the tree several times to confirm as being self fertile and were surprised it was not.  We finally assumed a flowering cherry might have pollinized it.

Early Ruby ripens in early June, has large dark red, sweet, juicy excellent flavor.  The selection is highly productive.  The fruit stores for a long period.  The heavy foliage hides the fruit from the birds and sun, one reason for the very heavy crops.  Early Ruby handles the heat of the San Joaquin Valley very well.  The tree has become a pollinator and can be used as such for Black Tartarian, Van, pie cherries, and flowering cherries.  The fruit holds well on the tree. Chill hours are 700.

Bob Ludekens 12-30-2013

Early Ruby Cherry Information Page - Point of Sale Page


Sunday, 23 March 2014 00:43

Compact Stella Cherry History

Compact Stella Cherry


Compact Stella was introduced by the Canada Agricultural Research Station, Summerland, British Columbia about 1973.  The selection was tested in the Summerland orchards during the late 1960's to early 1970's.  The trees had a dwarfing height and annual heavy crops.

1980, Robert A. Norton brought the Compact Stella to Washington State University to observe during the '80's.  The variety was then cleaned of virus but found Little Cherry Virus in plants that remained dwarf.  Washington nurserymen continued to seek a heavy production variety without a virus.  About 1988, the L. E. Cooke Co received budwood from an eastern Washington nursery, a personal friend.

Our first trees grew differently but two were very compact and had heavy production.  My wife preferred these trees, but as they grew all the office ladies went with Carole to pick.  You could stand in one place and fill two large plastic grocery bags.  The two trees provided quantities of cherries for everyone to pick.

We sent budwood back to USDA to certify virus clean and the resulting trees are now in our main Mother Block Orchard.  Compact Stella has been a major seller in the mild winter areas.  It is self fertile, large dark red fruit, firm, sweet dark red flesh with good flavor and texture.  The tree is a small grower but still out produces our regular Stella and all other varieties.  The tree has a mature height of 10' to 12', and the fruit is resistant to cracking and doubling.  The key is the Compact Stella is self fertile and is now producing in 500 hour chilling areas.  The tree fruits a little later than Stella.

My wife and the office personnel mainly pick Compact Stella because of the good production and quality fruit.

Bob Ludekens 12-30-2013

Additional notes

Over the years as I attempted to photograph all the fruiting cherries (competing with birds, employees and inclement weather) I noticed that I always was able to get good photos of clean fruit whereas late spring storms often messed up cherries of other varieties (splitting, fungal fuzzy growth, etc.).  I encourage people to try out the Compact Stella because it appears to me to be much more tolerant and forgiving of wet weather created issues - at least in our orchards and environment.

Ron Ludekens 3-22-2014


Compact Stella Cherry Information Page - Point of Sale Page

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Thursday, 20 March 2014 00:19

Utah Sweet Pomegranate History

Utah Sweet Pomegranate


Floyd Wright from Utah sent cuttings via UPS to us February 17, 2000 and we put in our greenhouse and into the orchard in 2001. We then grew the bushes for a few years to review the fruit. We began production in 2004. The sales are steadily increasing. I believe a better selection than Sweet Pomegranate. The fruit has an attractive gold color.

Utah Sweet had gold skin with pink cheeks, very sweet, good flavor pink arils. The arils (seeds) are noticeable softer than those of Wonderful and non-staining juice. The plant has attractive pink-orange flowers, sets a good crop and does better than others in colder areas.

Bob Ludekens 1-10-2014

Utah Sweet Pomegranate Information Page - Point of Sale Page

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Monday, 10 March 2014 16:07

Long Beach Peach History

Long Beach Peach


This is an Elberta peach seedling from a customer at Park's Nursery, Long Beach, California.  L. E. Cooke Co. salesman Robbie Roberts became aware of it about 1985 through Doug McGavin, an employee at Park's.  Carl Wisenhutter, nursery manager and son of owner, was impressed with the fruit.

Budwood was brought to our office by Mr. Roberts and a few trees were budded for our orchard to be reviewed.  One tree was sent to George Nyland at UC Davis to check for virus.  We planted two trees in our new virus free Mother Block orchard February 1, 1991.  We temporarily named it Long Beach from its source location as it had no other formal name.

At this time in our business we were rearranging ownership responsibilities and making management changes and had hundreds of trial trees in our orchard and just beginning our virus certified program and the Long Beach peach was ignored during the process.  They were cared for along with all our own stock plants but they were not in our research orchard near the office.

1994 we developed a much larger Mother Block virus certified orchard farther away from all Stone and Pome fruit orchards.  We began to phase out Orchard 67, original Mother Block, supplied by George Nyland at UC Davis.  At this time we realized we had two Long Beach peach trees and not part of our program.

We considered removing them when the sales staff and Bob Ludekens noticed the very heavy crop where all limbs weeping with very abundant fruit.  Everyone liked the fruit.  We then collected more information.  These trees were the first to flower making it our variety with the least need of chill hours (estimated less than 200).

We now had a peach requiring fewer chill hours than our Florida selections and very heavy production, with good flavor coming from Elberta.  Because of the heavy crop, the fruit was medium size but would be larger if thinned in the spring as often done with Babcock Peach.  We now had a very early ripening with a very low chill requirement peach.  It was a winner.  We left the temporary name of Long Beach as we had it named for years.

July 2008 Long Beach Peach were budded and sold for delivery January 2010. The variety sold out the first years.  We now have a good late May-early June peach for areas lacking cold winters.  Potentially has the lowest number of hours of chill for an excellent peach.

Robert Ludekens 8-9-2012

Long Beach Peach Information Page - Point of Sale Page

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Monday, 10 March 2014 15:18

Tropic Gold Apricot History

Tropic Gold Apricots


1998 I called on Samuel Kim at Santa Rosa Valley Nursery, Camarillo.  He took me to an older apricot tree in his parking area which set quantities of fruit and no one could identify it for him.  I returned in late June/early July and told him it was either a Blenheim or Royal.

Sam did not agree as he had planted both varieties about 50' away and neither would fruit because of the warm winters and lack of chill hours.  I told him it was likely a sport of Royal because of fruiting date and this sport required less chilling hours.

I took budwood in the summer of 1999 to bud a few trees and plant in our orchard near a Blenheim Apricot to compare the flowering date which would assist me to understand the chilling hours.  We dug the trees December 2000 and I have one in our research orchard planted February 2, 2001.

Tropic Gold Apricot Loaded and Weeping

Tropic Gold™ Apricot Loaded and Weeping

The fruit is similar to the Blenheim/Royal fruit but sets very heavily where the limbs weep from the fruit load.  The flowering date is only a day or two ahead of Blenheim but a very profuse bloomer.

I originally grew some for Sam calling it "Santa Rosa Valley" so he could sell them.  Local nurserymen learned of it.  Sam asked me to go ahead and grow the selection for others and name it as we wanted.  He was close to retiring.

The tree was named TROPIC GOLD™ and trade marked by the L. E. Cooke Co.  We went into production in 2008 and seeing increased demand every year.  As far as nurseries in the Ventura/Camarillo area that got trees from Sam, they like the variety for production and fruit quality.  The tree produces well in the mild winter coastal areas and has abundant quality fruit in our hot summer Visalia climate.

Robert Ludekens 12-7-2012

Tropic Gold™ Apricot Information Page - Point of Sale Page

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Friday, 07 March 2014 17:15

Montrose Apricot History



In 1952 Lloyd Rosenvold purchased land in Montrose, Colorado.  He found a very large apricot tree in a hillside pasture believed to be a seedling.  The tree produced huge crops of medium to large fruit of superior flavor and quality.  He was surprised as the winter was -31° and the previous year even colder.

Mr. Rosenvold took seed with him when moving to Idaho in 1966.  The original tree had limbs with 6" - 8" caliper.  Some of the seed produced very similar trees with fruit and now growing close to the Canadian border.  We selected one tree he had named Montrose because of the fruit quality and tree hardiness.

Montrose has very large crops of medium to large apricots with superior sweet flavor, freestone, with a reddish blush to the skin.

The L. E. Cooke Co started to grow Montrose Apricot in 1988.  The trees produce well for us each year in our orchard and have a good flavor.  Our sales have been to Utah, Colorado, Idaho, and other cold climate areas.

2011 I was at a Texas trade show when one of my Oklahoma customers told me about an apricot tree near him that produces each year with good fruit with red cheeks.  I realized I had missed selling Montrose in the north Texas to Kansas, and Missouri areas I was calling on.  The area's spring freezes wiped out the fruit.  Unfortunately we at times associate a variety to an area and forget it could be a great choice in other regions with similar cold winters and late spring freeze.

If Montrose will survive -30° to -40° weather and late spring freeze in Colorado, Idaho and still have good fruit crops, it should do in similar areas that are not nearly as cold but have the spring freeze.  This Oklahoma customer said the apricot with the red cheeks fruited every year.  Montrose has a good size fruit with good sweet flavor and fits the need.

To add to its uniqueness the fruit pit is sweet like the Chinese (Mormon) Apricot.  This could be a good choice in Utah where sweet apricot seeds are used in salads.

This variety has now been cleaned of virus and we have in the orchard.  Since 1995 the trees fruit every year and the last to fruit except for our Autumn Royal.

Robert Ludekens 12-26-2013

Montrose Apricot Information Page - Point of Sale Page


Wednesday, 05 March 2014 15:14

Blueberry Grape History

Blueberry Grape


Paul McLane gave the L. E. Cooke Co a grapevine he grew from his grandmother's seedling in Chico, California.  The grapevine produced a seedless Concord like grape with a unique blueberry flavor.  Thus it was named Blueberry Grape™.

A vitis vinifera selection which sets large quantities of medium clusters fully ripe in early September.  A temptation to pick because it has good color in August but its very strong high quality flavor is best through September.  Seedless with an intense rich flavor, Blueberry is fast becoming a popular home selection.

A small to medium grape, a smooth purple skin and clear green flesh with rich strong flavor hinting very much like blueberry flavor and aroma.  A seedless Concord with the unique flavor and aroma makes for a major market variety nationwide.

In addition to its jam/jelly uses the grape can be dried for raisins and keeps well in the refrigerator.

Do not get in a hurry to pick in August when it appears ready.  The flavor increases with the heat building more sugar.  When fully ripe in September the grapes will be a homeowner delight to eat fresh or make jelly, jam, leather, etc.  The blueberry flavor is unique.

First published in catalog in 2009-2010 year.

Robert Ludekens 12-26-2013


Interesting regional anecdotal information from those growing the grape showing a pleasantly wide climate range for growing:

1) I met with Fred Breshears - owner of Simpson Nurseries in Monticello Florida on my last sales trip.  While touring the nursery, he commented how well our Blueberry Grape handled the humidity and disease of the southeast.  They are planted in his personal orchard.

I'm not sure if that anecdotal comment justifies over promising on its performance, but it is a detail to keep in the back of our minds that it might have promise for that area.  Not sure how much he is spraying (but likely some since grapes in the SE typically do horribly without it).  Ron Ludekens 8-10-12


2) Observations just outside San Diego, CA:


Blueberry Grape™ Information Page - Point of Sale Page

More Blueberry Grape™ Photos

Wednesday, 05 March 2014 14:52

Praise for Blueberry (and Venus) Grapes

Blueberry Grape
Blueberry Grape

I love it when I receive a call from someone passionate and knowledgeable who has tried a new product in a here-to-fore untested climate zone and gives back such glowing and detailed feedback.  I want to thank Robin for this anecdotal evidence showing Blueberry and Venus Grapes performing well in a very mild winter area.  Here is Robin's email to me - used with permission.

Ron Ludekens


From Email 1-23-2014

Hi Ron,

It was a pleasure to speak to you today about grapes, cultivars and environmental variability.  We live in the City of La Mesa, far to its western edge (just SE of SDSU), bordering the City of San Diego Rolando neighborhood - Sunset Zone 23.  We have had the Venus, Blueberry and Crimson seedless grapes for several years now - with the first two heavy favorites.  The Crimson has not been noteworthy, but it also has had the least TLC.  The Venus was our first experiment growing grapes, since we primarily focus on fruit trees (about 100 on our property), and we were immediately hooked.   In the third year, the single Venus vine produced ~100 lbs of grapes, and now easily doubles that productivity. We love the taste and firmness, and have not noticed a seedy quality. I personally have come to prefer the "foxy" character of Venus's exceptional and rich flavor.  It harvests early here, and the third year produced awesome and ripe fruit mid-June. It grows supported by a chain link fence, which is now formidably laden with the heavy vines - growing up and down along the northern edge of our sloping property.

About four years ago we planted the Blueberry grape along the southern slope of yard - same chain link. Our only caution now, is how to contain it. We have a ½ acre of land, and I believe it would envelope the entire property - if allowed to roam freely.  One cordon extends at least 25 feet from the main cane in both directions, and that is after some serious pruning each year!  We really adore this grape. Its taste and texture so closely resemble a blueberry, one almost can forget it really is a grape, except unlike our sparse blueberry bushes, this highly productive fruit actually makes it into our house. It is sweet but rich, with a surprising burst of blueberry flavor and bite, and never mushy.  It also appears to be disease free, with medium to large fruit by year three.  In addition to its excellent taste, the big leaves are extremely ornamental, turning bright red in winter, and lingering on the vine through December in our region. It is growing adjacent to our vegetable garden, and we seldom water it, except what it gets from the proximity to a Netafim drip system for the vegetables.  Our soil is mostly fill, and we do provide excellent drainage, good sunlight and air circulation. Plus years of composting and mulching have also likely induced great fertility, but we don't add amendments or spray anything additional.  It does have to fend off a passion vine which wants to compete for the fence.

In any case, I really appreciated all your time to discuss the origin of the "Blueberry grape", since it is one of our more productive, hardy and delicious varieties of fruit. This year we harvested probably about 200+lbs of Blueberry grapes and fed many birds with no complaints, as there is ample to share.  Not only is the blueberry vigorous, it sets fruit over a very long period, perhaps two months. Our local CRFG chapter was really curious how we had such a vigorous plant.  Based on your input, I may experiment with that Concord seedless grape to replace our Crimson seedless location, and hold off until I can taste a locally grown Thomcord.  Wine grapes next...

Please contact me at any time for networking down here in this region, as I'm a member of CRFG as well as the SD Horticultural Society, Master Gardeners, PTCA, SDFA, Garden Writers Association, and also give talks in this region. In fact 3/22/14 the Master Gardener seminar is hosting several tree topics: Here's my class:

Give my regards to Brain Kempf, and I'm thrilled to hear his container mantra is getting into the nursery trade.  One of my pet peeves is the lousy state of so much ornamental nursery tree stock - all root-bound by the time it reaches the consumer.

Respectfully,  Robin


Robin Rivet

Urban Forester: ISA Certified Arborist #WE-7558A
California Center for Sustainable Energy - Division of Urban Forestry - San Diego County Tree Map public resource for community forestry

"Urban Forestry is America's front line defense in the fight against climate change."


Information Page on Blueberry Grape: Blueberry Grape Information Page

History of Blueberry Grape


Tuesday, 04 March 2014 22:03

Cooke's Purple Wisteria History

Cooke's Purple Wisteria


Wisteria sinensis 'Cooke's Purple'


Cooke's Purple™ Wisteria is the result of my interest in having a purple blooming selection.

In 1963, Dr. James Miller of Exeter, my optometrist, wanted me to see a seedling wisteria he liked.  Most seedlings do not bloom and home owners become upset with wisteria without bloom.  I was not interested in seeing another wisteria as we had 28 but I was volunteering with Dr. Miller in Boy Scouts, so went as a courtesy.

This Exeter wisteria was a showy vine growing up a utility pole and the guy wire.  I liked it but was not as dark as I was seeking.  I had some grafted and planted in our scion wood orchard in 1966. When we built our home the following year at the back of the orchard, we placed our driveway along the 500 feet of wisteria.  We soon observed it had a very heavy bloom in the spring prior to leafing, but it also had smaller flower spikes all summer.  We have visitors and photographers coming up our driveway during the spring to see the wisteria on the south side and the redbuds on the north.

We now have two rows of Cooke's Purple™ Wisteria along our home driveway with solid 18 inch flowers during late March into early April, and also have small 8"-12" flower racemes from April 15 to September 15.  July and August there is a heavier flower set.   The summer flowers start more as a spur out of the vine but weeps as it elongates.  Where a few other wisterias such as Texas White the L. E. Cooke Co introduced had 3 short summer flowering periods, the Cooke's Purple has color for five months during the summer in addition to the heavy spring bloom before foliage.   First listed in our catalog 1971-72.

Summer Bloom of Cooke's Purple Wisteria

Summer Re-Bloom

Because of its fantastic spring bloom and (at the time unique) summer re-bloom, Cooke's Purple™ Wisteria has become the major seller not only in the southwest where first introduced but now nationwide.  Many nurseries tell me about their success with Cooke's Purple as it blooms the first season before the first leaves.  We often have flowers from the newly budded or grafted vines in our fields.  Some other flowering wisteria varieties require 4 to 5 years before blooming.

Robert Ludekens 2-20-2014

Cooke's Purple™ Wisteria Information Page - Point of Sale Page

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