main groups of cherries are cultivated for the merit
of their fruit, the `sweet’, dessert (Prunus avium)
and the `sour’, culinary (Prunus cerasus); a third group,
the ‘Duke’ cherries, form an intermediate class. The
sweets are subdivided into the ‘black’ and ‘white’ varieties.
All fruiting cherries are hardy in the British Isles,
though the blossom may be damaged by spring frosts.
varieties are propagated on to rootstocks by budding
in July and August, or by grafting in March, which would
be rather unusual. Seedling Gean Mazzard and the clonal
Malling F 12/1 rootstocks are used. Unfortunately, as
yet, a dwarfing rootstock is not available and a mature
sweet cherry tree may be up to 10m (30ft) tall with
a corresponding spread-too large for the average modern
garden. Bush Morello (sour) trees rarely exceed a height
of 5m (15ft).
cherries do well in almost any situation and are particularly
valuable for training as fan trees against a north-facing
wall unsuited to other fruits. Although sweet cherries
can also be grown as fans, they dislike hard pruning
and are happiest as standards or half standards given
minimum pruning. Plant standards 10m (30ft) apart, half
standards 8m (25ft), bush and fan trees 5m (15ft). Cherries
as a class dislike poorly drained, heavy soils. The
sweet varieties do well on deep, light to medium loams
while the sour ones will tolerate poor soils, provided
they are not waterlogged. Lime in the soil is not an
essential as is commonly supposed.
cherries are self-fertile and will pollinate any sweet
cherry flowering concurrently. Most sweet cherries are
infertile with their own pollen and often with certain
other varieties also. The John Innes Institute has classified
the sweets into a number of groups but not with their
companions (see table above). It is important to select
varieties for interplanting whose blossom period coincides
or overlaps. A few varieties called universal donors
are compatible with all groups flowering at the same
time. The dessert cherry season extends from mid-June
to mid-August; culinary kinds are used throughout the
year for cooking, bottling and making into jam or cherry
Young trees, not exceeding five years old, transplant
best. Planting can be carried out at any time from mid
October to mid-March, whenever the soil is sufficiently
friable to be worked between the roots.
a wide hole just deep enough to allow the roots to be
covered with 10-13cm (4-6in) of soil. Plant firmly and
stake securely. Shorten the previous season’s growth
on the leading branches by half, and side shoots to
8cm (3in). In the spring, mulch the soil surface over
the root area with composted vegetable refuse or decayed
straw. Do not let weeds encroach for the first few years.
cherries fruit chiefly on the spurs formed freely on
the older wood. Pruning consists in maintaining the
tree to an open habit with an evenly balanced head,
together with the removal of dead, crossing and rubbing
branches. This minimal pruning should be confined to
the spring and early summer when infection from silver
leaf disease is least likely.
cherries fruit on shoots formed the previous season.
After the basic fan of branches has been built up by
shortening the leaders annually as for sweet cherries,
annually replaced side growths are tied in parallel
to the permanent branches. The replacement shoots are
selected during May to August-one near the base of a
fruiting shoot and another at its tip to draw sap to
the fruit; all others are pinched out when quite small.
The tip of the terminal shoot itself is pinched out
when 8-l0cm (3-4in) of growth has been made.
the cherries have been gathered, the fruited shoots
are pruned back at their junction with the selected
replacement shoots. The latter are then tied in neatly
appreciate a spring mulch of farmyard manure at the
rate of 51kg (1cwt) to 10 sq. m (10 sq. yd), or 56-84g
(2-3oz) per sq. m (sq. yd) of Nitro-chalk if manure
is unobtainable, plus an autumn application of 28-56g
(1-2oz) per sq. m (sq. yd) of sulphate of potash. Trees
on walls respond to being fed with liquid manure.
the fruit from bird dame is necessary, using fish nets
or rayon spider’s web material on trees of a suitable
size, or by bird scaring where trees are too large to
Sweet cherry pollination
1.‘Early Rivers’ (e), ‘Bedford Prolific’ (e), ‘Knight’s
Early Black’ (e), ‘Roundel Heart’ (m).
2.‘Bigarreau de Schrecken’ (e), ‘Waterloo’ (e),
‘Merton Favourite’ (e), ‘Frogmore Early’ (m),’Merton
Bigarreau'(m), ‘Merton Bounty’ (m).
3. ‘Bigarreau Napoleon’ (m), ‘Emperor Francis’ (m).
4.‘Merton Premier’ (m), ‘Amber Heart’ (m).
5. ‘Merton Heart’ (e), ‘Governor Wood’ (m).
6.‘Bradbourne Black’ (1),’Geante de Hedelfingen’
Donors:‘Noir de Guben’ (e); ‘Merton Glory’ (m),
‘Bigarreau Gaucher’ (1).
period:(e) early; (m) midseason; (1) late.