[nafex] Exploring Not Quite Cherries

jakuehn at yourinter.net jakuehn at yourinter.net
Wed May 9 16:58:48 EDT 2001

Ginda and all,

this looks like the article you were looking for; I'm not taking time to find out on my computer which issue it was in, but it appears to have been
Summer 98.  Anyway, the text follows:


Dr. Ieuan R. Evans, 127-27019 Township Rd. 514, Spruce Grove, AB  T7Y
1G5   (403) 987-4398

 The Evans cherry is the #1 selling fruit tree on the Canadian Prairies.  I still have trouble with the name but it was not of my doing.  The name
was a “label” put onto the cherry by Kris Pruski, the tissue culture specialist at the former Alberta Tree Nursery, now the Crop Development Centre
North at Edmonton, Alberta, from some scion material  of this fruit tree that I gave him.  He gave it the name in order to distinguish it from other
cherry selections undergoing hardiness and yield trials at the Nursery.  This cherry has produced optimal fruit crops in fifteen of the twenty
seasons that I’ve observed it in the Edmonton area.  1996 was the first year in five years that the Evans cherry failed to set a significant berry
 In an article that I wrote for Prairie Gardener in 1993, I traced this cherry back to 1923 to a Mrs. Bogward who lived less than a mile from the
former Alberta Tree Nursery.  She was given a rooted plant by a Mr. Henwood after whom the area is named.  By 1977 Mrs. Bogward, then in her early
eighties, had a well-kept apple, plum and cherry orchard on an acre of land.  Several of the cherry trees were large, with trunks 30 cm. or more in
diameter.  In 1979 her homestead and orchard had to be abandoned since the federal government had expropriated the adjacent land for a prison site.
In a visit to the orchard in 1995, fully sixteen years after receiving any care or attention, several of the cherry trees were alive and still
producing cherry crops.  In checking out the distribution of this cherry tree in the Edmonton area in 1980 it seems that distribution occurred only
in the north east area of Edmonton and Sherwood Park, with an unconfirmed report citing an orchard of these cherries at a townsite 80 miles north of
Edmonton.   Some of the specimens at scattered garden sites were 20 to 30 years old.
 The strange fact about the Evans cherry is that, despite its apparent long history in northeast Edmonton, hardly anyone involved in fruit growing
was  aware of this superb cherry.  When I offered and even mailed well-rooted suckers of this cherry to major commercial nurseries, federal,
provincial and university research stations, after extolling the virtues of this fruit tree, I got the polite cold shoulder.  No one really believed
me--how could a productive sour cherry be prairie-hardy in Canada?  In the early eighties I gave away dozens of 1’-2’ rooted sucker cherry trees to
friends and acquaintances all over Alberta.  By the late eighties these self-pollinating trees were producing huge crops of cherries from Wabamum
well west of Edmonton to Wainwright on the Saskatchewan border.  Around this time that the Italian amateur gardeners in the Edmonton area
“discovered” the Evans cherry.  I was besieged with requests for cherry trees and I was hard pressed to keep them supplied with well-rooted suckers.
 In 1993, following my article in Prairie Gardener I mailed out about a dozen or so specimens at cost to many locations in Ontario, Saskatchewan and
Manitoba.  Some of the Ontario specimens ended up at St. Lawrence Nurseries,  Potsdam, New York (315-265-6739) where they’re now being produced by
the thousands.  In 1992 Arden Delidais, of D and A Gardens at Elnora, Alberta,  took a gamble and produced thousands of tissue culture specimens.  In
August  1993 the owner of T & T Nurseries, Winnipeg, Manitoba, visited my cherry orchard at Edmonton.  One look at the cherry trees and he agreed to
purchase Arden’s entire stock for that year.  An estimated 30,000 Evans cherry trees were produced in each of 1996 and 1997 in Alberta, all with
sold-out signs.  To date there are at least six cherry orchards in place in Alberta and Saskatchewan with between 100-3,000 trees on a single site.
 At my orchard site in Edmonton, an open northwest-facing site on heavy clay loam, the best tree produced thirty gallons in its twelfth year.
Another two trees growing along a cement sidewalk in their eighth to 12 years produced about 50 gallons between them in 1992-1995 and looked none the
worse for wear.  In 1994, Nanking cherries citywide lost their flower buds whereas the Evans cherry produced abundant crops.  On the heavier clay
sites the cherry trees looked definitely jaded after their 4 year of continuous production.  The citywide flower bud failure of 1996 and 1997 which
followed -30° temperatures in March has allowed these overworked trees to recover considerable vigor after their four years of heavy production.
Heavy crops are anticipated in 1998.
 Other than being an English Morello-type sour cherry, the genetics of this tree are a mystery.  Its seed, readily germinated, is not particularly
hardy or productive, while the budwood grafts readily to pin cherries--three-year-old grafts produce good cherry crops.  Deer, mice and rabbits enjoy
eating the twigs and leaves, so in mammal-infested areas, grafting onto tall established pin cherries which are not favored by these pests may be a
 The sour cherries qualities for eating (late August early September) are excellent, as are its qualities for preserving, jams, jellies, pies and
wine making. It’s a too-good-to-be-true story; it shouldn’t grow well in prairie Canada but it does defy the experts!  I am now sure that with good
drainage, good moisture and full sun and a little balanced fertilizer, it is zone 2 hardy, (i.e., -45° C.)

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