Growing Cherries

Until relatively recently, the idea of growing sweet (dessert) cherries in gardens was not only questionable, it was almost considered idiotic. They made huge trees, were irregular croppers and special provisions had to be made for cross-pollination.

growing cherries The situation has changed somewhat in recent years, however, because we now have rootstocks that are producing smaller trees and self-fertile varieties of sweet cherry that make cross-pollination desirable rather than vital. This one variety that will set a good crop with its own pollen is Stella. The combination of Stella growing on the semi-vigorous rootstock Colt is the largest tree worth considering for gardens.

Even more recently the continental rootstock Gisela has become available in the UK. If all goes well, we should be able to have sweet cherry trees no more than 6-10ft (1.8-3m) high.

Morello is the best known acid cherry. It makes a neat free-standing tree that is easily grown in small gardens. It will grow and fruit well when fan-trained against a wall, even a north-facing one, the wire system being the same as for plums.

Sweet Cherries


Buy three or four-year-old standard or half standard trees and let them grow naturally with a minimum of pruning after the first few years, so that they will bear well. It is necessary to plant two reciprocal varieties to pollinate each other. Cherry trees do not crop well if grown as fan-shaped trees, although four-year-old trees trained in this fashion can be bought from nurserymen.


Cherry trees can be planted as late as February, but it is better to plant in November if possible, so that the roots have a chance of settling down before the winter.

Standard trees need to be planted 40 ft. square, for they will take up this space when they mature, and are therefore not suitable for a small garden.

Plant fan-shaped trees 8 in. from a wall or fence and 20 ft. apart. Fix tightly-stretched wires horizontally along the wall at 2-ft. intervals,and as the branches grow, tie them to these wires.


As it is important not to disturb the roots of cherries, plant the standards in a grass sward and cut the grass regularly as if it were a lawn. Do not collect the grass cuttings but let them fall back on to the soil. For the first three years keep a circle 1 ft. across round each tree free from grass by regular hoeing. This will prevent the young roots being robbed of moisture. Every year in February apply bone meal at 4 to 5 oz. per sq. yd. all over the grass where the cherries are growing.

It is important to keep fan-shaped trees growing slowly. Therefore it is not advisable to mulch them with well-rotted dung, as this may postpone cropping. A mulch of sedge peat will do good if it is put round each tree in a semicircle 4 ft. across and 1 in. deep. Such a mulch will protect the roots of the trees in a dry summer.

If the soil is acid, apply carbonate of lime in the autumn round the trees at the rate of 8 oz. per sq. yd. Every four years. Put this over the surface of the soil or mulch and let it be washed in gradually.


As all varieties of sweet cherry are self-sterile, care should be taken to ensure that the right pollinators are planted.


During the winter after planting standard trees, cut back the leaders at the end of every branch by half, to a point just above a bud. Continue this hard pruning for two years more, by which time a good strong framework should have been formed.

After this the cherry tree may be allowed to grow freely with just a small branch here and there being cut out each winter to prevent crossing and rubbing, and to let light and air into the centre of the tree.

If any large saw-cuts have to be made later on in the tree’s life, clean them up afterwards with a sharp knife and then paint them over with thick white lead paint. This will prevent the spores of silver leaf disease entering the cuts.


For the first two years after planting fan-shaped trees, cut back by half the one-year-old growths, then allow the growths to develop as naturally as possible, making sure that the branches are spaced out evenly.

Summer pruning is necessary in July and August, when the side growths developing against the wall or fence should be cut right out. Very strong growths developing away from the wall should also be cut out, because their strength and position will make it impossible to tic them back in winter.

Weak growths should be pruned back to within three buds of their base, with the exception of those that are needed for tying into the wires in the winter.

If the branches tend to produce numerous strong side growths, bend the growths round carefully in the winter and tie the tips of the shoots to the branches. This will check the flow of sap up the circle of growth the following spring and fruit buds will form.

The strong lateral shoots should also be pruned back to a point just above the fruit buds to check excessive growth.

Trees that have been shoot-circled in this way may look peculiar for one season, but the method is effective.


Cherries are budded or grafted on cherry root stocks. Suckers from wild cherries can be used as stocks, but the best root stock is the Mazzard stock known as Mailing F.12/1.


Spray the trees each December with a 5 per cent solution of tar distillate wash. In March cut off any dead or withered tips and burn them, because these are likely to have been caused by the withered tip disease coupled with the brown-rot fungus.


There is a very large number of varieties of sweet cherries but the following are the most important.

Amber Heart, mid-July. Pale yellow with red cheek. Pollinated by Napoleon or Florence.

Bigarreau de Mezel, early July. Large deep reddish-black, excellent flavour. Pollinated by Florence.

Bigarreau Napoleon, late July. Large, dark red, firm and sweet. Pollinated by Roundel and Florence.

Bigarreau de Schrecken, late June. Shiny black, excellent flavour. Pollinated by Early Rivers or Black Martell.

Black Eagle, mid-July. Purplish-black, sweet, juicy. Pollinated by Bigarreau de Schrecken.

Bradbourne Black, mid-July to August. Large, very dark red, firm. Pollinated by Napoleon or Merton Favourite.

Early Rivers, late June. Crimson-black, deliciously flavoured. Pollinated by Merton Heart or Bigarreau de Schrecken.

Elton Fleart, early July. Pale red, good fruit. Upright grower. Pollinated by Merton Clory.

Emperor Francis, August. Mahogany coloured. Pollinated by Merton Premier.

Florence, early August. Yellow and crimson, juicy. Vigorous grower. Pollinated by Napoleon or Governor Wood.

Frogmore Early, end of June. Pale yellow, red-flushed, juicy. Upright grower. Pollinated by Merton Glory.

Governor Wood, early July. Large yellow and red, juicy. Beautiful blossoms, flowers late. Pollinated by Napoleon or Florence.

Knight’s Early Black, early June. Deep red to black. Moderate grower. Pollinated by Merton Glory.

Merton Bigarreau, late July. Black, rich flavoured. Heavy cropper. Pollinated by Early Rivers or Merton Heart.

Merton Bounty, early July. Crimson to black. Pollinated by Merton Premier or Florence.

Merton Favourite, mid-July. Heart-shaped, crimson to black. Heavy cropper. Pollinated by Early Rivers or Bradbourne Black.

Merton Glory, mid-June. Yellow spread with crimson. Largest fruit. Pollinated by Early Rivers or Merton Bounty.

Merton Heart, late June. Crimson to black, heart-shaped. Upright grower. Pol-linated by Early Rivers or Bradbourne Black.

Merton Premier, early July. Firm and sweet.Mahogany, heart-shaped. Pollinated by Early Rivers or Merton Bounty.

Noirde Guben, July. Large black, firm flesh. Pollinated by Merton Premier.

Peggy Rivers, early July. Large, pale red, luscious. Pollinated by Merton Glory.

Roundel Heart, early July. Large, dark red, juicy. Flowers late. Pollinated by Napoleon or Bradbourne Black.

Waterloo, late June to early July. Sweet, deep crimson. Pollinated by Florence or Early Rivers.

15. May 2011 by admin
Categories: Fruit Gardening, Fruit Trees | Tags: , | Comments Off on Growing Cherries


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: