Keepers NurseryThe UK's largest range of Fruit Trees
Tel. 01622 326465

A guide to choosing Cherry trees

Here are the most important things that you need to take into consideration when choosing plum trees:

Variety. Cherry trees fall into two main groups: sweet cherries and acid cherries. These in fact belong to two separate but closely related species Prunus avium and Prunus cerasus. The acid cherry trees look distinctly different with smaller darker leaves. The fruit is also smaller and of course acid. Acid cherries have a strong cherry flavour, make excellent jam and are also used for other culinary purposes. The sweet eating cherries range in colour from “white” cherries, which have a red and yellow skin and white flesh to red and black cherries. The colour of the skin and flesh can vary considerably depending on the amount of sun and degree of ripeness. “Black” cherries will only become black if they have had sufficient exposure to sun. Some of the older varieties of sweet cherry are small and no larger than acid cherries. Some varieties have soft juicy flesh. Modern varieties are generally large and firm fleshed. Traditionally firm fleshed cherries were known as Bigarreau cherries. Most cherries are round but some which are distinctly heart shaped traditionally had Heart included in their names. Cherry trees flower early. Some of the earlier flowering varieties should be avoided in locations which are prone to spring frosts.

Rootstock. Cherry trees are grafted on rootstocks and the choice of rootstock is important because it determines the ultimate size to which your tree will grow. It is important to choose a rootstock suitable for the space you have and the way you wish to grow the tree. Unlike in the past when the choice was largely limited to fairly vigorous trees, with the introduction of modern semi-dwarfing cherry rootstocks there is quite a wide range available now. See how much space you have, imagine how you want the tree to look when it is a mature tree and decide on your choice of rootstock. Here are some guidelines for various common situations:
Tree Forms. Cherry trees need to be pruned and trained to become attractive and productive trees. However pruning should be kept to a minimum just to develop and maintain the shape. All pruning should be carried out during the main growing season from early May to August and avoided in the dormant season. You need to consider what you wish your tree to look like once mature and buy a tree suitable for that form. We supply untrained one year old trees known as maidens which can be trained into any suitable form. We also supply two year old trees which we have already started training towards a particular form. If you want to order a two year old tree ensure that it is in a form that suits your purpose. You would normally not be able to re-train a two year old tree into another form. Here are some guidelines about the various tree forms:
Cropping season. Cherries ripen over a short season from early July to early August in southern England and later further north. Cherries do not keep and must be used fresh off the tree. Depending on the weather conditions the fruit on one tree will ripen over a relatively short period and needs to be used within a short one to two week period. It is therefore important that if you are planning to grow more than one variety you choose varieties that do not overlap too much. Also bear in mind that some varieties ripen during the summer holiday period. Avoid varieties which ripen when you are likely to be away on holiday.

Spring blossom and autumn colour. All cherry trees have attractive pure white blossom in April and red and gold autumn colours. Unlike the ornamental cherries which can have pink blossom none of the fruiting cherries have pink blossom.

Pollination. We have deliberately left this to last as it is an issue that you only need to check after you have chosen your varieties. All acid cherries are self-fertile. There are some notably modern sweet cherries which are also self-fertile and can be grown successfully on their own. But most sweet cherries are self-sterile, which means that they need pollen from a cherry tree of a different but compatible variety to fertilise the flowers and produce fruit. The information on each variety page will tell you if your chosen variety is self-fertile or self-sterile. You can use the show suitable pollination partners facility on the same page to ensure that your chosen varieties cross pollinate and make changes if necessary.