Yard & Garden Report


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The cherry for the prairie

An impressive series of cherries from Saskatchewan is coming on the market.

'Carmine Jewel' cherryHow would you like to grow a shrub that is beautiful all year and produces lots of delicious fruit?

Get to know the prairie cherries of Canada. They are impressive!

In spring, you will be enchanted by their pure white flowers. In summer, you will admire their shiny green leaves almost as much as their lustrous red fruit. Even in winter, you will appreciate the glossiness of their bark.

These cherries from the University of Saskatchewan are slowly making their way into garden centers of the USA. The shrubs grow 6–8 feet tall, are extremely hardy (Zone 2), and show very few disease problems (including black knot).

Plants usually begin producing after two to three years. After five years, you can expect 20 pounds of cherries per shrub each year! The fruits are exceptional for pies, cooking, juice, wine, or for flavoring ice cream or yogurt.

The cherries are juicier than sweet cherries but more tart in flavor. They are much more flavorful than a typical pie cherry. When picked off the shrub, the cherries are absolutely delicious.

Gardeners find the cherries irresistible. Researchers find that most gardeners harvest the cherries before they develop their deep red color and fully ripen.

‘Carmine Jewel’ was the first variety to be released, and it is the #1 commercial cherry today on the Canadian Plains. It has been a reliable producer of quality fruit at our NDSU research plots in Carrington. ‘Carmine Jewel’ ripens in late July to early August.

We are also testing ‘Crimson Passion’. It is sweeter, but has mysteriously failed to produce the last two years. We suspect site-specific, weather-related problems with pollination/fertilization of the fruits.

Next year, more varieties of the Romance series of Saskatchewan will be available in the USA. ‘Romeo’ has dark red fruits with extraordinary flavor. It is not quite as hardy as ‘Carmine Jewel’, but still is very hardy (Zone 2). ‘Romeo’ matures a month later than ‘Carmine Jewel’, which extends the harvest to early September. Several nurseries are offering ‘Romeo’ in 2015. Do an online search to find them.

Look for ‘Juliet’. It may be the sweetest of all the Saskatchewan cherries and is highly recommended for fresh eating. Its cherries are large enough for an old-fashioned crank pitter. ‘Juliet’ shows exceptional hardiness, but blooms a few days earlier than others. This may pose a risk of crop loss if a late frost strikes.

For more information on these remarkable cherries, go to www.fruit.usask.ca/dwarfsourcherries.html.


Written by Tom Kalb, Extension Horticulturist, North Dakota State University. Published in the NDSU Yard & Garden Report, July 21, 2014. Photo by Tom Kalb.

Source: Bors, B. 2014. U of S Fruit Program: Dwarf sour cherries. www.fruit.usask.ca/dwarfsourcherries.html. University of Saskatchewan: Saskatoon.

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