Morello cherry renovation project

Slow project – renovating a Morello cherry to bring it back to better shape and with improved flowering and fruiting. I first met this tree in 2015.

Before work started – late summer 2015 after fruiting. Most of the growth was at the top with bare areas lower down. Some stems had been bundled together and had wire wrapped around them, leading to congestion and damage, and the fan shape was starting to be lost.

Later the same day. We decided to do the job gradually over a few years, as advised by the RHS, in order to not encourage excessive unfruitful growth. Their advice refers to renovating old apple and pear trees, but the principles are much the same.

Working together, we took out some of the older stems, unraveled those which had been tied together, spread the branches out, put up news wires and re-tied them in their new positions. This sounds straightforward, but freeing the stems from their binding wires and untangling the congested growth took some time and we then spent a good while staring at it and discussing the matter before deciding where to begin.

June 2016. It flowered better in 2016 than it had the previous year, but there is still too much bare stem showing.

After fruiting, late summer 2016. More wood removed and some branches shortened to prevent the tree out-growing its allotted space. Note the new growth coming up at the base – we’ll make use of this in the coming years.

Early April 2017. It’s about to come into bloom and looks as if it will flower well. There is new growth coming from lower down which I intend to replace the oldest stem. This old stem is unbalanced in growth and has been snipped at over the years, making it stubby at the ends. Once it’s been removed, the other branches will be untied and re-trained, gradually bringing back the intended fan shape.

April 29, 2017. There is more blossom this year and new stems are flowering further down than in the last two seasons. At some point I’d like to see the whole wall covered in flowers.

Tying them in more horizontally should encourage some bud burst in the bare areas. I shall also try ‘nicking and notching‘ along the stems to trick the plant into thinking some parts have been cut back, which ought to encourage new growth in those parts. I’ve had success using this method on roses – in particular a very tall wall rose which had only one stem and was completely bare for the first 2.2m (seven feet). Taking a notch of bark out below a dormant bud at 45cm (17 inches) high broke the bud’s dormancy just above that point and also prompted the rose to send out multiple new stems further up. The rose now covers the wall as it was meant to do. That’s another story, mind you.

This is how Morello cherries can look when properly treated –

I don’t know where this tree is, but it looks very productive and creates a good screen for the structure behind it.

Morello trained against a dovecote at Rousham House garden in Oxfordshire. The pattern on it reminds me somewhat of the way fungal mycelium spreads out and is pleasing to the eye. I’ll go back later in the year and see how the fruit looks.

There are doves living in there and you can hear them cooing. It’s lovely.

Mycelium spreading on a leaf.

2 thoughts on “Morello cherry renovation project

  1. Wow, that”s already a huge improvement. Can’t wait to see the fruit later in the year.
    I admire your patience, it is truly a long term project!

    1. Thanks, Eva. It is indeed a big project and my patience will be sorely tried as I wait each year to see how it’s growing, but it has to be done! Updates on the fruiting will follow!

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