Main varieties in order of ripening


Merchant - probably the best commercial early cherry - liked by the trade because it ships and holds up well for an early cherry - good sweet taste and nice bright shiny appearance.

Vista - a very nice early cherry fresh but not for shipping or keeping too long.

Summit - big heart-shaped soft flesh - gentle taste. Often sought after by fruit shops who know this one by name - can be a shy bearer here but sometimes there is a surprisingly good crop.

Van - short stem - distinctive taste with lots of character. Very sought after. Massively popular here. Cracks fairly easily in the rain, although small cracks will sometimes heal.

Sunburst - whoppers often - very spherical - gentle taste but known as shy bearers. Some years we manage quite a good crop here without losing size. Maybe it's the winter chilling - we've certainly got plenty of that by local standards, but nothing compared with cherry-growing regions in Europe and the US! A mild taste and a very popular cherry when available. Evidently Stella blossoms can help pollination but most years they're not around at the same time. In 2017 they were and we got a much better crop than usual even though everything else cropped lighter.

Stella - popular in garden centres because it is self-fertile but also a reasonably good commercial cherry. Longer stem than Van and similar but less distinctive taste. Looks like a Bing, but less crunchy Holds up a lot better in the rain.

Rainier - top quality white cherry (i.e. the skin is partly yellow but inside the flesh is white). Extremely sought after because of its excellent flavour - not to be confused with some of the older less sweet and tasty varieties such as Vega (we still have just a few) and Napoleon (St Ann). Hugely popular here once people have tasted one.

Bing - the gold standard of cherries - the main variety in the US and the one which has earned them such a good name in exports to Europe and elsewhere - we are starting to see them here also in our off season. Very crunchy and an excellent shipper. Unfortunately it cracks very easily in the rain. US growers are fools to abandon this for other supposedly better varieties; customers here are already saying that US cherries (in our winter) are not as good as they used to be.

Sam - a nice cherry when left to ripen. Can be picked almost black. Not much bothered by rain and the birds don't bother them so much until fully ripe. Can be a shy cropper but we often do quite well

Nordwunder (Schneider) - a leading European cherry for many years - all round good balance of taste and texture and fills the gap nicely between main season and Lapins. not very productive at the moment. Additional pollinators seem to be helping but more are needed. We've regrafted most of these over to Lapins because they weren't very productive. They were originally planted to fill the gap between  Van, Stella etc and Lapins according to the timings given in nursery catalogues. The reality is that there isn't really much of a gap at all in most seasons.

Lapins - an excellent mid-late season cherry - usually big with a nice flavour. Quite good rain resistance. Usually plenty on a tree so easy to pick. A big favourite with our customers - luckily we planted quite a few.

Lambert - our latest cherry - in America (also Sydney for some reason)  it has an excellent reputation. An excellent mild but enticing flavour. Not crunchy but moderately firm

Vega A white cherry - vastly inferior to Rainier by most people's reckoning. We've replaced most of these but there are just a few left in case anyone really does like them. Tastes do vary.


Sour cherries

Morello - the only one for jam and also good for various drink preparations - a labour of love to pit them but the pit is quite small so you don't lose too much cherry flesh. These start to ripen after the middle of the season and we charge less for them.

You haven't tasted jam until you've tasted the jam made with these. Why not try a few just for fun. It's easy to make small quantities of jam in the microwave.


How to prune a cherry tree

To save people asking one at a time here's the general idea.

When you have several thousand the answer is: very quickly indeed. 

A number of systems are touted as being the best. In reality there's no such thing as "the best way to prune a cherry tree" because different varieties behave differently. If you're aiming for multi-leader bushes Van just about train themselves after one lot of cuts. Lapins still want to become a poplar tree after one lot of cuts but settle down after about two and make nice bushes. They also benefit from "tipping" to persuade tight bunches to spread out along the branches.

It's best to always keep in mind the basics of most fruit tree pruning - that is to let light into the fruiting limbs - also to generate limbs which you hope will indeed be fruitful - for most sweet cherries that's about 7-10mm diameter and 2-6 years old.

Most fruit trees are trained to one of three shapes.

A vase - the light gets in mainly from above.

A christmas tree - the light, mainly from above, hits the sides.

A wall - the light hits the sides.

Once you get to what you're aiming for the next problem is: what to do when it all ages and grows some more.

Limbs which don't get enough light will eventually cease to produce fruit. Typically whatever you do, leaves and branches will chase the light so maintenance pruning consists mainly of letting the light back in again. Also getting rid of heavy wood which is trying to take over. 

Regenerating young wood is also needed. Often that will happen naturally - any cut will do that - but a tree in which the fruit load saps most of its energy (an ideal situation while it lasts) may need cutting back hard in order to regenerate wood. This is called "renewal pruning". Obviously if you have just one tree in a home garden you may be reluctant to do that. Old wood will still produce fuit, but it may be a bit on the small side

Opinions on painting of cuts vary. Some say don't - some say paint all above a certain size - others say paint every cut. Likewise timing of pruning. Ahead of a dry spell is the best to avoid disease getting in through pruning cuts. Also a very well fed tree pushing sap outwards will be less susceptible to disease. But there's still a risk. In the old days cherry trees were hardly pruned at all for fear of disease. They aren't as susceptible as apricots and peaches but they're much less resilient than apples and pears. Same with drainage.

BTW it's pretty well impossible to grow cherries on the Adelaide plains - there just isn't enough winter chilling. There's plenty of that up here. Trust me - plenty.