In the Garden | Growing cherries

Like apples, peaches and plums, cherries require a definite chilling requirement that only a cool climate can provide.

FRESH AND TASTY: Imagine these on your Christmas table - those little red fruits would make all the hard work worth it.

FRESH AND TASTY: Imagine these on your Christmas table - those little red fruits would make all the hard work worth it.

If you are able to keep the crop being stripped by the birds then you will have a worthwhile harvest for the Christmas table, plus a pretty spring flowering tree with a bonus of autumn colour.

Many hundreds of cherry trees are grown commercially in Australia and New Zealand, the majority of them sweet cherries, which ripen in November and December.

Self-pollinated varieties ‘Stella’, ‘Starkrimson’, ‘Sunburst’ and ‘Trixie’, miniature fruit trees, are recommended for home gardens.  ‘Morello’ is a sour cherry which bears at an early age. The fruit is not for eating fresh but strictly for jam, preserves, pies, brandy and wine.

Cherry trees grow on a wide range of soil types, providing they are freely drained. While they do not like wet feet they need plenty of summer water to keep the trees healthy and bacterial canker at bay.

Little pruning is required other than early shaping and a light summer pruning will contain any over vigorous growth. Trees should carry good crops at about five years of age – perhaps as much as 40kg per netted tree.

The sweet cherry carries its flowers on the spurs of two to four year old wood. Once past the early stages, trees will flower freely.

Possible problems are the defoliating effects of pear and cherry slug, of which there are two generations a year. Slugs, the larvae of a sawfly, graze the foliage until only a network of veins remains leaving a ‘scorched’ appearance.

The larvae can be hosed from the foliage or dried up with dust from the vacuum, while regular feeding and watering should help maintain a healthy plant.

CHINESE fringe flowers or Loropetalums are some of the finest colourful shrubs useful for well drained acid soils. Most grow to around two metres by two metre, where they can be clipped into a formal hedge or left as a mass planting in either full sun to part shade.

From Plant Growers of Australia, ‘Plum Gorgeous’ has the deepest purple coloured foliage. ‘Flame n Gorgeous’ has fine russet tones, while ‘Blonde n Gorgeous’ has olive green foliage plus white fringed petal flowers. 



From Flemings, cv. ‘Fire Dance’ has ruby red new growth becoming reddish purple when mature. Dark pink flowers have narrow strap like petals; cv. ‘Burgundy’ Evergreen rich purple red foliage, showy bright pink flower. Avoid soil with a high pH and protect from severe frost.

Var. rubrum ‘Sizzling Pink’ grows to about 1.5m x 2m with  more horizontal branching than other cultivars. Rich reddish purple foliage matures to a purple green. Useful in a range of landscape settings, the reddish purple foliage colour does best under high nutrition and even moisture.