Cherries can be divided into two main types:
- Eating cherries (sweet)
- Cooking cherries (acid)
Traditional cultivars of acid cherry trees were generally smaller, more self fertile, and more hardy than sweet cherry trees, although modern cultivars of sweet cherry trees have addressed this.
Sweeter types (sometimes referred to as ‘mazzard cherries’) tend to be larger trees and may need a pollinator – although there are many exceptions. Advances in cultivation have helped create varieties which offer more choice to the gardener – ie dwarf sweet cherry trees that are self pollinating. White fleshed cherry varieties are often particularly sweet.
Pollination requirements are worth checking with your shop before purchase. Some varieties are self fertile, others are sterile and need a cherry tree of another variety to pollinate them, and some cherry trees will pollinate all other cherry tree types. If you live in a residential area, there is a good chance your cherry tree will have a pollinator close enough to your home – bees can travel a long way. In more remote areas, you may like to consider purchasing two cherry trees that can pollinate each other.
Other differences in varieties include flowering and harvest time. In colder areas, buying a later flowering variety to avoid frosts may bring more success. If you are looking for a succession of cherries throughout the summer, it is possible to choose varieties that fruit at different times.
Cherry tree varieties can grow large, but they do come in a variety of root stocks that determine their size. I have found smaller root stocks work best, as combined with pruning to control the size of the tree, this allows for the option of covering a tree with a net during the fruiting season. In my area, it is possible to lose a whole crop to birds sometimes with very little warning – just as the cherries are beginning to ripen.