After a great deal of research, the University of Saskatchewan has developed cherry trees that are cold tolerant to -45. Ingrid Wilcox describes several of these varieties, the best known and most successful of which is the Evans Cherry Tree.
In the ’70s and early ’80s, when my husband and I had our greenhouse operation, we dappled in fruit trees. We did our research, found a nursery in the Prairies and ordered a couple of crabapple trees – four, to be exact.
The trees made it through the first summer and winter. The tips of the branches froze off above the snow cover. By the following summer, they bravely produced flowers but, disappointingly, no fruit.
Being too busy with the greenhouse, the little apple trees were neglected, with the exception of being watered regularly. Surprisingly, they grew to waist-high until one summer when the cows discovered them and thought the leaves were a delicacy. (Between struggling through winter and the cow episode, the trees gave up … I never did find them again.)
Almost 30 years later, more research has been done and breeders at the University of Saskatchewan have come up with cherry trees that are cold tolerant to -45 degrees.
Two types of cherry trees piqued my interest: the Dwarf Sour Cherry Tree and the Sour Cherry Tree. Dwarf Sour Cherry trees grow only six to eight feet in height, whereas sour cherry trees grow between 15- and 35-feet tall.
Dwarf sour cherries include a variety called Carmine Jewel, which was released by the University of Saskatchewan, in 1999, after several years of crossing Mongolian cherries with cold-tolerant varieties from Minnesota.
The trees produce beautiful white flowers and have bright-red to deep-red fruit that ripens early (mid-July to mid-August) and has superior flavour and quality. I haven’t had the pleasure of tasting these cherries, but will plant a tree, come spring, to see for myself.
There were five more releases of dwarf sour-cherry varieties, but based on maturity dates for fruit, I would try the Carmine Jewel for the Yukon. Other varieties mature mid- to late August and into September, and we often get frost by or into September (horrible thought!).
The best-known and most-successful of the sour cherry trees is the Evans Cherry Tree. Dr. Evans, a plant pathologist with Alberta Agriculture, noticed cherry trees growing in the Edmonton area where cherry trees were not supposed to be hardy. Working hard to propagate this tree, the Evans Cherry Tree is now the best-selling cherry tree in Canada.
Evans cherry will grow to about 15 feet tall at maturity with a spread of 10 feet. This self-pollinating variety does not need a second plant nearby to set fruit.
This tree has stunning clusters of fragrant white flowers along the branches with dark-green foliage, throughout the season, turning orange in the fall. The fruit is excellent for cooking and baking as well as for making jams, jellies and wine.
Because of the oval shape of the tree, the smooth red bark, and its spectacular flowers and fruit, this tree is often used in landscaping. The tree should be grown only in full sunlight with evenly moist watering requirements, but does not like standing in water.
After phoning some of Alberta and Saskatchewan nurseries, I found that, due to the popularity of both the Evans Cherry Tree and the Dwarf Sour Cherry Tree, they are often sold-out of these varieties, in the spring, and orders need to be placed in the fall to ensure receiving these varieties.
If you are interested in obtaining a tree or two, please e-mail me for more information.
Ingrid Wilcox operates Lubbock Garden and Floral Consultant and offers gardening tips.