Pruning Cherry Trees

Early spring, the promise of colour and more sun than we have seen for some time. The mist hangs low in the valley below and the sky is peregrine blue, it hangs there, hunting you across the garden. It turns my neck red and for the first time in six months I reach for my straw hat and strike out across our fruit patch. I have neglected the cherry trees, first a fall then the death of my Dad, two years the fans have been waiting to be pruned, two years of rapid growth and branches reaching up to my Dad. Time to do something about it.

Cherry branches

Early spring is the best time to prune cherries. If you have them as a standard tree (that lovely lollipop shape) then the best advice for pruning them is, don't. Only prune if branches are crossing and rubbing against each but on the whole leave any stone fruit alone. The simple reason you try to avoid pruning cherries is silver leaf disease, once it gets in a tree you can kiss it goodbye. It can be an expensive mistake when it comes to mature cherry trees but the weather looks good for the next few days so I bite the bullet. I sterilize my secateurs, some people laugh when I tell them that but recent studies have shown what I have known for many years, if you carry your secateurs from plant to plant you are working like a virus. I call it cross-contamination and when I taught gardening I advocated sterilizing cutting tools. Better to work smart than create work further down the line. When pruning fan cherries you are looking for a strong frame work coming out from two main branches at a forty-five degree angle. This will eventually carry all your branches across the supports. Our fans had too many leaders and too many branches growing backwards towards the wall. I reduced these to two buds to promote fruiting spurs and more importantly, new branches. Any branches outgrowing the top of the support wires were reduced by a third. When I had finished the fans looked sad but they will recover and be better for it. It was Carol who told me to bring any clippings indoors. The stems were cut at a forty-five degree angle and placed in a vase. The buds soon started to break and blossom filled the house. Carol pointed out that in some florists one branch alone would set you back £10, we had around forty in vases. They bring welcome colour and the promise of spring and if we are very lucky some may even root in the water.

Cherry blossom in the house

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