Cuttings: News From The Gardeners' World

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The Independent Culture
Millennium tree

No 7: Cherry

During this year, all the tallest trees in Britain and Ireland are being measured again to determine which are the champions of the millennium. Researchers already know of eight trees that are more than 180ft tall.

But the cherry, my millennium tree this week, will never get near the record books, as it more often grows out than up.

By "cherry", I don't mean the pink candyfloss types suitable only for garden planting. I'm thinking of bigger, wilder kinds such as the gean (Prunus avium). At Studley Royal in Yorkshire, there is a gean 60ft tall, but most of them hover between 20ft and 40ft, fine trees, pyramidal in habit, covered with pendulous white blossom in April. This is the tree from which most cultivated cherries have been bred.

Prunus padus, the bird cherry, would also make a good ceremonial tree. The bird cherry carries its white flowers in narrow racemes, unlike the rest of this tribe. The flowers smell of almonds and come out in May. One 88ft tall, grows in the garden at Hergest Croft, Herefordshire.

Cherries thrive in any open, sunny position. They are not fussy about soils, and will even put up with chalk. The gean has the better bark (smooth grey, turning to mahogany red with age), and its leaves colour deep crimson in autumn.