Monday, April 2, 2012

Making a Cherry Tree Bloom

I am espaliering a cherry tree in my tiny .15 acre yard. If I want cherries at home, rather than the family garden, I need to keep it small. If I want to keep it small, I need to torture the cherry with my pruning shears on a regular basis. I suppose I could have planted the tart 'Nanking' cherry and trained it as a bush in my hedging area, but I wanted sweet cherries like the sweet red-black Bing cherries of the grocery store aisles.

For my purposes I settled for 'Lapin'.

Working in my potager yesterday on a beautiful blue sky day, I noticed my cherry already in full bloom.

I will say last year, I got about a pound of fruit. Most of which, my then two-year-old nephews gobbled up, loving the sweetness of eating fruit from which someone is willing to remove the pits. Sweet the 'Lapin' is, indeed.

Noticing how heavily the tips of my espaliered cherry are blooming this spring, I was put in mind of a walk through my yard with a noted doctor of horticulture a couple of autumns previous. As we walked, he noticed the cherry, which I had barely begun to tie the branches this way and that in my amateurish attempts at espalier.

As we talked he reaching into his pocket and pulled out a jack knife and scored one of the branches.

"Just a taste," he said, as he replaced the jack knife in his pocket. Sure enough, just to the other side of where he had scraped a bit of the bark on one side, A handful of blossoms bloomed the next spring and fruit formed that summer. Out of time with the natural development of my cherry tree, I did indeed get a taste of the sweet cherries.

Since that day, I have taken to clipping the branches to keep my tree in check laterally. Each year, I clip off the new group within two or three new buds of where growth ended the previous season. In this way my tree grows only an inch or two wider rather than the couple feet it would should I let it have it's way with its sunny spot. I have also chosen to keep my cherry flat, as if it exists on a single geometric plane.

The result has been to have marvelous clumps of cherries blossoms at each of the tips as you can see. Barring a bad frost yet this spring, there might just be more than a pound of cherries. Espalier, it should be noted, is not only used to keep a fruiting tree small enough for its space; but also, if done correctly, to increase yields.

It remains to be seen whether the greedy twins will gobble up all the fruit like little birds. I did plant them some cherry trees of their own in the family garden.

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