PLANT A CHERRY TREE
When you are in your youth you enjoy fresh fruit throughout the summer because they taste so delicious in their season, but as you get older you get wiser and understand the immense health benefits of home grown fresh fruit. I have always loved fruit so I try to grow just about everything possible in our Scottish garden.
Cherries are full of anthocyanin, a very potent antioxidant, which causes the red pigment colour. These are known to have very beneficial health properties linked to heart disease, diabetes and help to reduce cholesterol, so even if the cropping season is short, at least it will be a very healthy summer period, and then we begin the next healthy fruit crop.
Last year I planted my first cherry tree seeking out a sheltered spot against a south facing fence so I can train it as a fan as my space is limited. I got the variety Cherokee grafted onto the dwarf rootstock Gisela 5.
Last year was not the best year to get it established. Lack of sunshine, gales and continual rain did not help it to get established and put on good growth. However plants do not give up easily, especially after planting on well prepared soil with a lot of well rotted compost added to the planting hole, so eventually it put on some nice growth.
Brilliant, I thought, so I left it alone for a couple of weeks. That was a mistake as they are very prone to attacks of blackfly which suck out the sap causing the leavers to curl up. This protects the blackfly from predators and me, so a spray of insecticide was of little value as it came too late.
Lessons have been learnt so this year I will keep looking for the first signs of this pest and take action before they get a hold.
Cherries are also a very short season plant, so they only get one chance to grow per season, so if it gets curtailed, you then have to wait till the next year.
Cherries prefer a deep heavy soil that has been well cultivated and free draining. They usually flower too late to be affected by frosts unless you get a very late one, so pollination is usually very good and modern varieties are mostly self fertile so you do not need two for cross pollination.
Good varieties in include Stella, with dark red fruit, Cherokee, also with dark red fruit and Summer Sun, similar and suitable for our cooler climate up north. I make sure they are grafted onto the dwarfing rootstock Gisela 5 which is said to keep the height down to six to eight feet. This will make netting against birds easier against my fence.
Give a dressing of general fertiliser in early spring, water in any dry spells and a mulch of compost will help to retain moisture if ever we get back to any dry weather.
Watch out for those blackfly early in the season and net against blackbirds. Bullfinches can also be a problem in spring as they peck out buds and pull of flowers.
Plant of the week
Cornus alba Westonbirt is my favourite dogwood. It has bright red stems that dazzle in the winter sunshine and add interest in the garden at a time when there is precious little flowers, leaves or berries around. Westonbirt is the best red, but in a coloured stem winter border there is a place for the lime green stemmed Cornus stolonifera flaviramea and the bright orange/red Mid Winter Fire.
If you fancy something really unusual then include Cornus kesselringii which has black stems.
To show off the coloured stems to their best grow them as stooled bushes where they are pruned back to ground level every one or two years. Give them some fertiliser in spring to encourage growth, and a mulch of compost in winter which helps to feed them, retain moisture in dry weather and keeps weeds down in the growing season. I underplant my coloured stemmed border with spring flowering bulbs such as snowdrops and crocus to extend the floral impact after pruning at the end of March, so I do not cultivate the soil in this border as it would damage the bulbs.
Painting of the month
“Tullybaccart Farm” This farm sits in an elevated location overlooking panoramic views to Coupar Angus, Blairgowrie and Alyth. This area is very popular for hill walkers and anglers and is served with a busy roadside car park. I walk around Tullybaccart about six times every year in all seasons, so I am always around when the views are at their best. Winter is my favourite time as long as the roads are open and there is always gorgeous sunsets. This painting captures one such winter evening, as I always take my camera with me. I must have done about twenty paintings of the farm and surrounding landscape, and nearly all of them as snow scenes. However the light is always changing so they are always quite different.