[nafex] Exploring Not Quite Cherries

Sam Brungardt samb at pop.isd.net
Wed May 9 19:48:42 EDT 2001

Here's some info about bush cherries that may be useful in sorting 
out the various kinds that are available.  There are several kinds of 
bush cherries that northern growers may want to try:
	Nanking, Chinese bush, or Manchu cherry, Prunus tomentosa 
(cultivar examples are 'Orient' and 'Drilea')--this cherry, generally 
only available as seedlings, is fully hardy in Minnesota and much 
appreciated for its fruit, which make fantastic preserves.  Fruit 
holds well on the bush after it ripens.  Unfortunately birds are 
crazy for the fruit and one just about has to cover the bushes with 
netting to be able to beat the birds to it.  The bushes generally 
grow about 6-9 ft. tall.  Fruit of the cultivars ranges from 1/2 inch 
to 5/8 inch in diameter.
	Mongollian cherry, Prunus fruiticosa, is probably even 
hardier than Nanking cherry.  In the far north prairie provinces, it 
is about the only cherry-like fruit that can be grown.  It is to my 
knowledge only available as seedlings, not cultivars.  The plant is 
short, growing about 2-4 ft. tall, and the crimson fruit is smaller 
than that of Nanking cherry.  The plants sucker profusely.  The 
proprieter or St. Lawrence Nurseries says this bush cherry makes the 
best of all preserves.
	Western sand cherry, Prunus besseyi, is intermediate in heght 
between P. tomentosa and P. fruiticosa.  It is generally available as 
seedlings of the Hansen's Improved Bush Cherry, selected by Prof. 
N.E. Hansen of South Dakota State University in the 1930s and 1940s. 
However, some nurseries sell cutlivars (examples are 'Brookings', 
'Black Beauty', 'Manmoor' and 'Ruby').  Fruit is generally a dark, 
reddish black when ripe, although some cultivars have yellow fruit. 
Size of the fruit of these cultivars is about 3/4 inch in diameter.
	'Jan', 'Joy' and 'Joel' are selections of the Korean bush 
cherry (actually a plum), Prunus japonica , made by Prof. Elwyn 
Meader of the Univesity of New Hampshire.  The plants grow 3-5 ft. 
tall and the red, cherry-like fruits can be used in pies.  The fruit 
is slightly less than 1/2 inch in diameter, and ripens in late 
summer, when bird pressure is considerably reduced.  These cultivars 
are not self fertilie; polliinate 'Jan' or 'Joy' with 'Joel'.--Sam 
Brungardt, St. Paul, Minn.

>While ordering flats and whatnot, I succumbed to a saleslady's wiles,
>and found myself ordering a nanking cherry, as well.  It arrived the
>other day, looking pretty dead (or VERY dormant??) and I put it in the
>ground.  But then I got to thinking. . .
>There are other bush cherries out there.  I doubt this one will make it,
>but the spot I put it in would look nice with a flowing shrub. . .and
>wouldn't it be great if it had edible fruit?  Now I really like
>cherries.  I like sweet cherries.  I like sour cherries, eaten fresh.  I
>used to live near some non-eating cherry (maybe a black cherry) that
>dropped little fruits - a full-sized pit covered with about 3mm of black
>flesh.  It was sweet and bitter and very cherry, and I enjoyed them a
>lot, although there wasn't enough fruit on them to do anything more than
>chew on a few as I wandered past.  So sour/bitter/seedy doesn't deter
>me, and I don't mind attracting birds.  But I would like to be able to
>nibble at it myself, and I'd like something short and bushy.
>Does anyone have experience with any of the bush cherries?  St. Lawrence
>Nurseries offers a whole page of different ones (sand cherry, dwarf
>ground cherry, Jan-joel-joy cherries, nanking cherries.)  Which might do
>best with less-than-full sun - (bright shade for most of the day)?  The
>spot is just downhill from a white pine, and is probably acid, too.  My
>plan is to squeeze two into one large hole for pollination.
>Ginda Fisher
>eastern Mass. zone 6
>Where we went from 90 to below freezing in two days.  (Little visible
>damage, blooms still blooming away.)
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