Sometimes when I tell people that I do edible landscaping I get blank stares or even worse I get a look like I am from some alien world. I really have no idea what could be going through their head, but my guess is that they are either drawing a total blank on what edible landscaping is or else picturing in their head something like a front yard filled with rows of corn instead of grass. For some I think it might be like hearing me speak a foreign language and having no clue on what is being said. It is times like that when I wish I had pictures with me of some of the incredible beauty that is possible with edible landscaping, so they could get a sense of why this topic excites me so much.
One of the pictures I wish I carried with me was of cherry trees drenched in pink or white blossoms.
My picture from this spring doesn’t do this tree justice.
When I lived in Japan I was amazed by the Japanese people’s celebration of the blossoming of the cherry trees. Every year they celebrate their sakura (cherry blossom) festival with great emotion and exuberance as a way of welcoming spring and a new year. The cherry blossom is seen as being an incredibly powerful symbol of beauty and renewal.
I see people plant various ornamental cherry trees and am really sad by it. They are missing out on the best part of edible landscaping, the fruit. At times I hear people seem to associate fruit bearing trees as being a burden or chore, as if the fruit is a nuisance. They’d much rather completely rely on the grocery store for all their food and not bother dealing with all the strange things that could fall off a tree and mess up their manicured lawn. I have difficulty describing how frustrated I am by this way of thinking.
My dream is someday to see the best qualities of the ornamental cherry trees successfully crossed with the qualities of the best fruit bearing trees. I believe it is possible that some day we will see things like weeping cherry trees covered in delicious red or yellow cherries, it is just a matter of time before someone does it.
My cherries are enjoyed so much by my family members that they never make it far from the tree before being eaten. I feel lucky to personally get even a few each year. As soon as my kids discover that the cherries are ripe enough to eat, they tend to drag my step ladder out and pick the tree clean. The only evidence I usually see of a good harvest of cherries is a forgotten step ladder and cherry pits around the base of the tree.
Here is a picture of the unripe cherries from a few weeks ago.
Since taking this picture, those cherries have turned red and begun being consumed by eager kids and birds.
Even if you don’t want to harvest the cherries, they can be a great way to attract birds to your yard, since they love cherries. But if you are like me and want to enjoy your own cherries, you will need to find ways to discourage the birds from taking all your fruit. This time of year is when cherries are ripening, when birds are flocking to cherry trees, so steps need to be taken to safeguard your cherries.
Things I have tried or seen that has worked to discourage birds:
Bird Netting There is netting sold that you can drape over your trees to block birds from being able to get in to the tree. This is probably the most effective way to protect your fruit. It is also the most work intensive, since it involves putting on and taking off a net, which depending on the size of your tree could be quite a chore. Personally, I go for the easier methods.
Flashy Objects or Ribbons I’ve been told that flashy ribbons or flashy objects like CDs/DVDs that move about in the wind will discourage birds from going near the tree. I am not sure exactly why this works, but have heard theories that it scares them, as if the tree was on fire or had some unfamiliar threat looming on it.
Bird Scarecrow Predators I’ve seen people use large balloons or balls with large eyes painted on them to scare birds away, or replicas of bird predators. I’ve also heard that for this to be effective the object needs to be moved to different locations from day to day.
Grow Sour or Yellow Cherries Birds seem to prefer red sweet cherries, so if you grow the sour pie cherries or a less common yellow sweet cherry, birds will be less attracted to it.
If you are buying a new cherry tree to feed and attract birds, then you won’t mind getting a full size one, which can get something like 40 feet tall. Otherwise, I’d suggest looking for a dwarf tree that is at a much more manageable size. I’ve found that the taller trees are very difficult to pick the fruit from. There are nurseries that offer grafted cherry trees that are dwarfs and more disease resistant. Another option is to grow bush cherries.
Some cherry trees are partially or fully self-fertile, like the named varieties Lapins, Stella, Glacier, White Gold, Black Gold, Vandalay, or Sweatheart. If you aren't getting a self-fertile variety, you will need to get two different varieties for pollinating each other. Tart or pie cherries are self-fertile but unable to pollinate sweet cherries.
One other thing I would like to point out that cherry trees not only are a good source of fruit, but the wood is also valuable in the use of home interiors, cabinetry, and photo paper. Before removing a cherry tree you might want to check with wood brokers to see how valuable it is.