Gardening Articles: Edibles :: Fruit & Nut Trees
Short and Sweet (page 2 of 3)
by Jack Ruttle
Easy on the Bees
Some of the highly flavored cherries have other qualities that may help you narrow your choices. If you have room for only one dwarf tree, you'll have to choose a self-fruitful variety. 'Lapins' and 'Sweetheart', introductions from British Columbia, are considered very fine, approaching 'Lambert' for flavor. But 'Lapins' and 'Sweetheart' are prone to cracking. In the East and Midwest, plant the self-fertile 'Stella' or 'Starkrimson', which were introduced in the 1970s. Their flavor is not of highest quality, but both varieties are widely adapted. And where space is tight, either one of these is a lot better than no cherries at all! High-quality self-pollinating varieties for east of the Rockies are in the works from the research stations in Geneva, New York, and Vineland, Ontario.
Another advantage of the self-fruitful varieties is that they are all good pollinators of any other sweet cherry variety. The sweet cherry family is full of pollen incompatibility and picking two that go well together is a little like ordering from a Chinese menu. So even if you have room for two dwarf cherries, something like 'Lapins' or 'Sweetheart' may still be a good choice.
Not for the Birds
Another way to get dependable pollination is by choosing a yellow cherry. Yellow varieties are also usually bird-proof. The top choice is 'Stark Gold'. It's a pure yellow with no red blush, and red is what the birds seem to go after. In the West, gardeners could also grow 'Rainier', a very large cherry, but it's blushed with red. Either of these has very high-quality flesh and will pollinate virtually any other sweet cherry. 'Stark Gold' originated in Nebraska and is one of the most cold-hardy and latest-blooming sweet cherries.
If you grow the classic red cherries, you will certainly have to stop the birds. What can you do about them? "Try all the tricks you can find in the folklore and the scientific lore - from preventing the first bird from finding the crop to netting the tree. But how the heck do you do that," Ed Proebsting says, laughing. Proebsting, a researcher at Washington State University in Prosser, has spent his entire career looking for better methods of sweet cherry production. "We don't think much of the scare-eye balloons but use them anyway. Netting works, but there can't be the smallest hole or the birds will find it." Or you can grow mulberries; birds seem to prefer them to cherries.