The Veg Plot

Cherry pickers: choosing and planting a cherry tree

Cherry duo grafted rootstock

Cherry wine. Cherry liqueur. Cherry beer. It’s one of the booze maker’s favourite fruits, but we’ve not grown a single plump red cherry ourselves.* This year it’s time to put that right.

Since moving house, I’ve had a space at out front earmarked for a cherry tree and, while it’s still officially winter, now is a good time to plant one. I just had one decision to make: should I go for a sweet variety or sour?

It turned out that decision was as easy as plucking cherries from a tree – thanks to the genius of grafting I can have two varieties growing from the same rootstock. My new ‘duo fruit tree’, dispatched by online plant retailers, will give me both the bright red sweet variety ‘cherry stella’, perfect for plucking and munching in one swoop; and cook’s favourite ‘morello’, the deep red juice-giver that has launched a thousand pies.

Both varieties are ‘self fertile’, meaning they don’t need another tree nearby to help them with pollination. Everything happens within the one tree. I have hit the fruit tree jackpot.

The tree was supplied as ‘bare root’ – naked of mud, dry, and trimmed ready to be lowered into its new home. Before the roots made their acquaintance with fresh compost they received a two hour soaking in water to help get liquid goodness flowing in the right direction. The hole I dug for them was twice the size of the roots which, when filled with tree and earth, was firmed in with a few weighty clumps of my boot before getting another good soaking with water. It can get a bit windy at the front of my house so the tree has been secured to an oversized stake to give it a bit more security.

I’m hoping it won’t be long before the famously attractive blossom begins to divert eyes from the shabby pebble-dashing up the front of my house, and according to the website I can even expect a small harvest this year.

Then the next decision will be wine, liqueur or beer…

*Our book contains a recipe for ‘fortified cherry wine’. It’s delicious. We bought the cherries from the greengrocers.

Thanks to yougarden for the offer of a tree to try out. You can find out more about their cherry duo tree here.


  • I have recently bought the exact same cherry tree and was looking around for hints and tips of how to care for it when I came across your post! I am looking forward to seeing how it does this summer, it’s currently in a nice sunny spot and has lots of buds which have started to open! Hopefully if it does fruit this year I will get to them before the squirrels do haha

  • My dad has just kindly bought one of these for me, but the spot I’ve ear marked for a cherry is close to a fence. I know morello cherries can cope in semi shade, but Stella needs maximum sunlight. Before I plant it, is there anyway of knowing which branch is which so that I can ensure that the Stella gets positioned for maximum sunlight? An alternative suite is not an option! One of the branches is definitely showing more leaves than the other which is really still only just budding. Perhaps the sour cherry grows earlier in the season than the sweet or is it the other way round? Any help would be great!

    • I would have no idea how to tell which branch belongs to which cherry.

      There doesn’t seem to be much difference in the initial growth of each variety – they both look equally healthy and blossom well – but since I’ve had my tree it’s the sour cherries that I’m harvesting the most of. Both seem to be ready at roughly the same time but the sour ones do a much better job of hanging around – I think it’s because the birds prefer the sweet ones.

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