The cherry originated, like the plum, in Asia Minor and reached England via Rome about A. D. 100. There are two groups, the sweet and and the sour or acid cherries. Both types are naturally vigorous and make large trees. They take quite a long time to come in to bearing, and attract the attentions of birds when in fruit. They are not ideal for small gardens unless the trees can be grown in trained form. The only useful shape for the Cherry is the fan.
Both sweet and sour cherries grow best when the soil is well - drained. The best commercial orchards are found in Kent, Buckinghamshire, and the Vale of Evesham. They do best in areas of light to moderate rainfall where the soil is good. They are not so suited to heavy clay. Cherries flower early in the season and to ensure good pollination they must be well sheltered from cold winds and frosts. Sweet cherries should be planted on walls facing south or west but sour cherries will grow on any wall, even facing north.
Once the fan shape of the tree has been developed, the leading shoots on the branches are not shortened at all. If the shoots overgrow the wall, it is best to bend them over and tie them facing downwards. The sweet cherry forms spurs and fruits on both old and new wood. Shoots growing in the wrong direction are cut out early in the season. Strong vertical shoots must be pruned away or bent and tied down, to reduce their vigour. Sour cherries are a little easier to train because they are somewhat less vigorous in growth. If only one cherriy is planted it must be self- fertile and sour, perhaps a Morello or Nabella.
When the framework of the fan has been built up the side shoots are allowed to develop in greater numbers. A proportion of the old branches is cut back each year, thus encouraging new young shoots. But do not cut back the old branches too soon, because die-back will probably claim some of the main branches each year anyway.
Since they flower early, cherries may need some protection against spring frost. This can be done by using fleece or fine netting. Later on, if the whole is not to be lost to birds, considerable time and effort must be spent in making the net birds - proof. The tree must receive plenty of water between blossoming and fruiting.
Cherries should be allowed to ripen properly on the the tree. Cherries will not store and are best used within an hour or two of picking. Cherries make one of the best country wines, particularly sour cherries, and excess picked fruit should be put into the freezer earlier rather than later if wine is to be made from them.
When sweet cherries are planted, two varieties are needed because they are not self- fertile.
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