Dig These Cherries

Time for cherry pie!

One of the first trees to produce fruit in the summer is the delicious and nutritious cherry tree. Lucky for us the prunus is a native species and appropriate choice to plant in much of Ontario, including London and Middlesex county. So bring on the cherry pies, cherry turnovers, cherry cheesecake and cherries jubilee. Today we are talking cherry trees!

Black cherry leaves

Black cherries (prunus serotina) are deciduous trees that can grow up to 22 metres tall. They have dark grey bark, which becomes quite flaky the older the tree gets. Leaves are shiny dark green on top and paler underneath. The leaves are long and narrow, 5-15 cm long, and come to a point at the end. The flowers blossom after the first leaves open and fruit ripens in late August into September. These cherries are edible, but far from the sweet cherries you want to eat by the handful.

Pin cherries might look tempting, but are a little too sour for most people’s taste

Pin cherry trees (prunus pensylvanica) are also a recommended tree to plant in Southwestern Ontario. They are much shorter, at only 12 metres high, with bright red berries on them. The berries ripen from late July to early September. You might want to leave these for the birds though, as they are edible, but very sour. They require bright sun to grow and are intolerant of shade. If you have the space for one in your yard, and welcome their white blossoms in spring, consider planting this native species.

Cherry tree branches with cherries in Summerla...

Cherry tree branches with cherries in Summerland, British Columbia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of course, that cherries jubilee will be a far cry tastier with a sweeter cherry to choose from. There are plenty to select from, like Bing, Van, Lambert, and Samba, but you will have to have more than one tree to produce fruit. If you don’t have room for two or more trees, than choose a self-pollinating variety like Sandra Rose, Sonata, Stella or Lapins. Sour cherries, like Montmorency, North Star or English Morello, are a welcome addition to the kitchen as well, plus they are usually self-pollinating.

Regardless of the species, you want to ensure you plant your cherry tree in a well-drained site. They aren’t fussy about being mulched, and don’t require much fertilizer, aside from an annual dose of blood and bone meal. As far as pruning goes, you need to decide if you want the tree for shade and don’t mind climbing for your fruit, or if you would rather keep your specimen smaller and more accessible. Just note though that cherry trees prefer being pruned during dry times, thus preventing fungal infections.

So if you are ready to get out and pick up your very own cherry tree, check out this video for some last-minute tips on how best to plant it. Save me a piece of that cherry pie!

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