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This year has been a very good year for Stella! She has produced enough cherries to supply ourselves, and many of our neighbours, and I can't recommend highly enough this self - pollinating eating cherry tree, which thrives on its own with minimum intervention!
About 20 years ago, when I was pregnant with my daughter, we moved into our current house and set about creating a cottage garden, in what was quite a small space. We decided to plant a backdrop of fruit trees including apricot, morello cherry, peach and eating cherry. As we knew we were going to be staying in the house for some years we did choose trees which would take some years to flower and to fruit, and we purchased these from a specialist tree nursery called Deacons, who are based on the Isle of Wight. As we chose immature trees the cost was minimum, and all we needed was patience.
Stella cherry trees are amongst the most popular variety of cherry trees, and they produce beautiful dark red cherries in July. They originated from Canada. What I really love about these trees is that they are self fertile, so you can plant in isolation without having to buy several. In April you will be able to enjoy some of the most beautiful blossom you can imagine, which is deep pink and this will attract lots of insects into the garden. Most of the trees are sold on dwarf "Colt" rootstock, so you can expect the tree to reach a height of about 15 feet when mature. Deacons now have a new size to offer which is their super compact tree, which has restricted spread and height - ideal if you have a very small garden. They also offer a GISELA 5 rootstock, which is going to give you a tree 6-8ft tall.
The important thing to remember if you have a dessert or eating cherry is that unlike its relative, the Morello, which requires a north facing aspect, eating cherry trees require a sunny position, which means you have to take this into account when planting, as without full sun the tree will not flourish.
To purchase a good quality Stella tree from a nursery will cost about £17.50 for a first year tree. The best time to plant is in the autumn when the tress are dormant, but if you purchase a tree from a garden centre in a container, which is more mature, you will be able to plant all year round. If you do this, however, make sure you keep it watered as it will dry out until the roots are established.
One brilliant attribute where cherries are concerned is that pruning them is almost non essential, and carries a high risk of causing the disease called silver leaf - if you must prune to shape the tree then cover the wounds in a "Heal And Seal" treatment, and cross your fingers. Personally I wouldn't prune them at all; after all a cottage garden is by definition wild and natural. If you have to, never do so in the winter, but after the trees have fruited. I haven't put a pruning tool to Stella for over 20 years, and she has flourished!
This year she has produced a crop which has to be seen to be believed. Delicious bunches of cherries hang in magnificence from the branches. To pick you simply use scissors, as again this protects the tree from injury. To think how much cherries cost in the shops I could probably have made a fortune selling these from my front door! They have a superb flavour and are loved by all.
Yes the birds love them too, and yes I could net the tree, but to be honest my philosophy is something along the lines of "why not let the birds have one or two, they really enjoy them and there are plenty left for me".
I remember in the days when I did A level geography at school, that we were told cherries only grew in the South of England on a commercial basis. I think if you live in South / Central / Eastern England you will be fine, but even here yields differ from one year to another. It really has a lot to do with the weather at the time the flowers are available to pollinating insects. A bad weather window in April can result in a poor crop in July anywhere within this geographical belt. If you live in Northern England / Wales / Southern Scotland / Northern Ireland, you might be lucky with a tree in a container in a sunny place, but this will be hit and miss. The place I love - the Outer Hebrides is out for growing cherries -too windy and wet, and not the conditions the trees need in April when they flower.
Although there is little work to do after planting, I think you need to see this job, the preparation, as the most important for the tree. I like to think I am making a cosy bed for it, so have to take time to prepare it properly. The tree will not survive in soil which is poorly drained so you must prepare it well. How to tell if the soil is draining adequately is simply to dig a hole about 2 feet deep, and to pour in a bucket of water. This should drain away quickly, but if it sits there, almost like you have put a pond liner in it, then it is no good and you must add rotted animal manure and some really good quality potting soil.
You then simply pop the tree into the hole and fill around until the top of the root ball is level with the top of the soil. Then just keep it watered, and you can also feed in the spring with a fruit tree fertiliser if you like. I don't -,this is where my care ended,- other than watering the newly planted tree for its first year I left it to mature all by itself, and it has done me proud, rewarding me with little red balls of delight every year since 1989!
The cherry harvest in our garden is somewhat of a family event. My daughter, who was born just after the tree was planted, absolutely loves to hear how the cherries are doing, and is often home to pick them. They crop in July and are followed by the Morello sour cherry crop in August.
I understand from research that I can expect Stella to go on for forty years or more, so she may outlive me!
This review will also be posted on Ciao with photos of Stella, under my user name Violet1278!