Sweet and Duke cherries

The cultivated sweet, or dessert, cherry is a hybrid between Prunus avium and P. cerasus. It is a hardy deciduous tree which is cultivated in many areas of Europe and western Asia. It bears clusters of attractive, white flowers in spring and bears fruits, ranging in color from yellow and pink to almost jet black, from June onwards in cool temperate areas. It grows in zones 6 and 7, and in protected locations in zone 5.

The Duke cherry is thought to be a cross between the sweet and sour cherry and it is intermediate in character between the two.

'May Duke', 'Olivet', 'Reine Hortense' and 'Royal Duke' are good varieties, but are difficult to find.

Cultivation

Although this delicious fruit merits a place in any garden, it has one serious drawback—its extreme vigor. Despite the introduction of increasingly dwarfing rootstocks, the cherry remains quite vigorous and is therefore not suitable for a small garden. It is often grown as a fan on a wall, but the wall must be fairly high. In the open it is grown as a standard. By using the less vigorous rootstock Colt, it could be grown as a pyramid. Treat Duke cherries in the same way as sweet cherries. Yield The yield from the different kinds of cherry can vary enormously depending, of course, on the size, age and form of the tree and the climate. A good average from a fan is about 30 lb and from a well-grown standard 100 lb.

Soil and situation Cherries grow in any good, well-drained soil but it must be deep, ideally more than 21/2 ft. The pH should be between 6.7 and 7.5. Light, sandy and shallow soils are not suitable.

Cherry blossom is susceptible to frost and young trees to wind damage so the site should be sheltered from winds, in full sun and not in a frost pocket. Soil preparation In the spring clear away weeds over an area 3 ft square, single digging clear ground and double digging weedy ground. Just before planting, fork in a balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10 at the rate of 3 oz per square yard with bonemeal at

1 In spring, prepare the soil. Dig a hole wide and deep enough to take the roots fully extended. Plant the tree against a wired wall for fan-training (or with two stakes and a crossbar for standards).

2 Each April, apply a top dressing of balanced fertilizer at a rate of 3 oz per square yard over the rooting area. Mulch with a 2-3 in layer of well-rotted manure over a radius of 18 in.

2 oz per square yard.

Planting and spacing Plant when dormant in March or April. Container-grown trees can be planted at any time. Dig a hole wide and deep enough to take the roots fully extended. For trees in the open, before planting drive in a stake to reach just below the lowest branches. Standard cherries require two stakes and a crossbar. For fan-trained trees, erect a system of horizontal wires on the wall using 14 gauge wire and spaced 6 in or two brick courses apart (see pages 8-9).

Plant the tree to the same depth as it was at the nursery. Return the soil and firm it well. Tie to the stake with a tree tie and cushion, or tie in the branches of a fan to the wall wires. Space fan-trees 18-25 ft apart; half-stand-ards and standards at 30-40 ft apart and dwarfs 25-35 ft apart.

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