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13 November 2014

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You are in: Lancashire > Nature > Features > Ask the gardener: Cherry trees

cherry

Ask the gardener: Cherry trees

Bill Blackledge answers questions about cherry trees...

Warton's Bill Blackledge is one of the county's most popular and sought after gardeners.   If it's green and needs watering, Bill can tell you about it.  He has been answering BBC Radio Lancashire listeners' queries for over thirty years, which means he's been there nearly as long as the transmitter!

His knowledge is encyclopedic. After training at the under the then Ministry of Agriculture, Bill spent over twenty years at the Department of Biological and Environmental Services at Lancaster University.  Now, he's a regular course tutor at Alston Hall, Longridge and Lancaster Adult College.

For three decades, Bill has travelled the county with fellow judges as a regional judge for North West in Bloom.

So, whatever the problem, we like to think Bill can sort it out... at least that's the theory!

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Allen asks...

I have purchased a prunus avius recently it has lots of leaves but no sign of flowers or buds, is this normal?

Bill replies...

Your Prunus Avium - Wild Cherry - will grow to a height of fifty to sixty feet and produces in late spring profuse white flowers.  With regard to your tree Allen if it is looking healthy I am sure that it will produce the flowers next year. Prunus Avium along with the majority of flowering Cherries produce their flowers late springtime.  If your tree grows too large the time for pruning is early summertime to avoid infection from Silver Leaf Disease.

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Sylvia asks...

I have a wonderful thirty year old Japanese flowering cherry tree. Last year there were very few flowers and this year it is even more sick.  I am desolate as there is another flowering tree very near to it that looks as though it may have developed the same disease. I don't want to lose them. What must I do?  Please help.

Bill replies...

If you have any dead branches on your Cherry Tree these will need to be pruned back to live wood and the time for pruning is during the summer period.  What I would also do to encourage new shoots is to feed your trees with a general base tree fertiliser or a tried and trusted fertiliser such as Fish Blood and Bone Meal.  It would also be worthwhile if we do have a very dry summer is occasionally give your trees a good watering which, again will encourage new shoots.  Also, again, if possible mulch around your trees with some well rotted manure.

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Jobie asks...

I have a fruiting cherry tree and a plum tree. I would like to keep them in a 5 LT plastic pot for now, so what is the best soil to plant them in?

Bill replies...

You would Jobie be far better using a soil base compost such as John Innes No 2 or, you could use a mixture of a multi purpose compost and John Innes compost.  It is important that until your trees get established to keep an eye on the watering and you will also need to feed occasionally throughout the summer months with a liquid fertiliser.  If you intend to plant your trees out in the garden you would be far better doing this late autumn when the soil is still warm and the trees are dormant.

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Mr B Hewson asks...

I have got a flowering cherry tree which over the last few years has given plenty of flowers. This year there are only a few buds, on looking in the soil I have found the roots have got white fungus on them. The area it is planted in gets flooded when we get heavy rain and takes a long time to dry out. Could you tell me what I can do, and if I need to dig it out and could I plant another one?

Bill replies...

Flowering Cherries love to be planted in a well drained soil and it could be the water logged conditions which are causing the problem.  I would be inclined to wait and see if new shoots appear over the summer months before taking the drastic step of replacing your tree.  There are soil borne fungal diseases which do attack Flowering Cherries but I feel that it could be the water logged conditions which have caused the problem. 

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Dan asks...

I have a 25 ft old cherry tree that produces only a few cherries.  I don't think it has ever been pruned and is pyramid shaped.  There are 2 main limbs but they are almost vertical.  I would like to get some fruit and "top" the tree if possible.  Can I do this now (February) or do I have to wait till the summer and how should I prune it.

Bill replies...

You will need to prune your Cherry Tree Dan during the summer months - June/July time, as this will cut down the risk of infection from the air borne fungal disease Silver Leaf.  After pruning I would treat the pruned branches with a tree sealant such as Arbrex.  With regard to pruning you will need to cut back some of the older wood to new shoots but still maintain the pyramid shape and, as the fruit appears on the previous seasons wood again some of the fruited wood will need to be cut back to new vigorous shoots. Cherries generally flower mid to late spring which makes the blossom vulnerable to late frost damage and you can protect your tree by covering in the evening with white fleece which is available from Garden Centres and DIY Stores.

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David Hughes asks...

I have recently pruned a dying branch of an ornamental cherry tree back to the main trunk (a major operation since the cut is about a foot in length).  I have just noticed that a line of fungus and clumps of the stuff have begun to form on the bark at the edges of the cut and on the wood surface.  Please tell me is this dangerous to the tree and how can I deal with it?  Can I just trim it off as it grows or is there a treatment that you can recommend?

Bill replies...

You will often find David that fungi will congregate around a branch which has recently been cut and quite a range of these fungis are harmless but, with regard to pruning your Ornamental Cherry you would be far better pruning during June/July. This will cut down the risk of infection from the air borne Silver Leaf Fungi Disease which causes silvering of the leaves and dieback of the branches.  It is also advisable to treat the cut after pruning with a tree sealant such as Arbrex.  With regard to the branch which you have pruned you can remove the fungi and during a dry period you can treat the cut with a tree sealant.

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Pam asks...

We have just planted an ornamental, conical shaped cherry, but have been told that cherry roots often come up into lawns and shoot where you don't want them to. Ours is near a fence in a border and I don't want problems with mowing as I'm trying to create an 'easy care' garden for the future. Please advise me.

Bill replies...

Cherry Trees come in all shapes and sizes Pam and quite a number of the larger species are very vigorous and the roots which are surface rooting, can be very troublesome if planted near a lawn.  A lot will depend on what variety your Cherry Tree is.  You mention your tree is conical shaped which suggests that it could be one of the dwarfer varieties and be far less troublesome.  If you are still worried you could actually plant your Cherry Tree into a large container to offset this root problem.

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Lesley Partridge asks...

I'm planning on having a drive put in, however, there is an established cherry blossom tree nearby and I will have to cut away an area 2 metres from the tree. How can I do this without damaging the roots/tree? I would be very grateful for any advice. Thanks

Bill replies...

When you dig out the foundations for your drive Lesley I am sure that you will find roots from your Cherry Blossom Tree which will need to be cut back and depending on how many roots will need to be severed will be the main factor in determining die back on your tree.  I am sure that your tree will not completely die but any die back on the stems and branches will need to cut back during the summer months.

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Jason asks...

I have been noticing many cherry trees dropping their leaves early this year. Can this be due purely to the weather as on closer inspection all the buds are healthy. The leaves are yellowing between the leaf veins and also curling so their edges meet. They also seem to be abcising well. It just seems like premature autumn behaviour. What are your views?

Bill replies...

Quite a number of trees have been dropping their leaves early this year Jason due to this year's contrasting weather conditions.  We had a dry spring an extremely wet and cold summer and during the autumn time again quite dry and warm and I am sure that it is these contrasting conditions which is causing premature leaf fall.

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Anne Rooney asks...

Is it safe to plant a cherry blossom tree in a small garden surrounded by a wall?

Bill replies...

The majority of the large ornamental cherry trees will grow to a height of twenty five to thirty feet and will produce a very vigorous root system and a lot will depend on whether you want to plant any other small plants or shrubs within your garden.  I personally would be inclined to choose an alternative tree species such as Ornamental Crab Apple or Japanese Acer Palmatums Cultivars which would be ideal for your small walled garden.

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Bill Buckley asks...

There is a spring flowering cherry in the garden next door to us.  It is over 25 foot high and is some 8 foot from the wall of our house.  The roots have already caused the paving on our side path to lift.  I am concerned about how it might affect or be affecting the foundations of our house.  I would be grateful if you could say if it is likely to cause damage to the foundations.

Bill replies...

Having a 25 foot high Cherry Tree eight feet away from your house is quite close Bill and as you mention Cherries do produce quite a number of large surface roots which, will lift paving stones etc.  Regarding the foundations of your house you will usually find that during a dry summer the roots of the Cherry will be searching for water and this is when they take available moisture from around the foundations and below the foundations and this is when problems can arise.  I feel that you need to get a second opinion from a Tree Surgeon but, I personally, would be quite worried having a tree so close to the house wall.

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Angela Freeman asks...

I have a small flowering cherry tree in my garden which has buds on it at the moment but no foliage yet. On wondering why no leaves have appeared yet I have noticed on closer inspection that the base of the trunk is dry, cracked and rusty coloured, slightly ruptured. The trunk higher up has two further instances of a split in the bark and higher up, the branches are quite gnarled, dry and wrinkled. Although there are small brown buds, no leaves have yet appeared. At the base of the trunk at soil level, there are two or three small twigs springing up which do have green leaves on them - as yet the lack of any leaf higher up is worrying me. Some of the branches do have a faintly olive green tinge to them. I have read about black knot but can only find references on American sites which seem to suggest this has not occured in the UK before. Can you give me any advice on how to treat this? Many thanks.

Bill replies...

Dwarf Cherry Trees Angela love to be planted in a well drained soil and if during the winter months your ground has been water logged this could quite easily be the cause of the die back of the branches and also cracked stems and split bark which, can leave the tree vulnerable to attack from bacterial canker.  At the present moment in time (May) there is nothing much that you can do and hopefully your tree will come into leaf.

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J Cribb asks...

I have a small cherry tree and a number of the branches are dying off. There is a mossy type growth basically spread randomly over most of the branches which I tend to scrape off, how can I treat it Bill? Thank you.

Bill replies...

The algal mossy growth has been a problem on quite a number of tree shoots and branches this year and I am afraid that at the present time there is no chemical treatment available and as you have stated in your email you will just have to peel the moss off the infected branches.  You will however find that during the summer months the moss will shrivel.  You mention the dying back of some of the branches on your Cherry Tree and this could quite easily have been caused by waterlogged soil conditions.  Small Cherry Trees in particular need to be planted in a well drained soil.

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Duncan Laxton asks...

Our church has five flowering cherries about 20yrs old in a row alongside the car park. All have blossomed successfully in previous year but one hasn't blossomed this year and the growing tip which developed buds now appears dead. The tree seems to be alive further back towards the trunk. What do you think is the problem and can I stop it spreading to the other trees?

Bill replies...

One of the very troublesome diseases which affect flowering Cherries Duncan is the Silver Leaf Disease.  The air borne spores enter the tree though a cut or damaged branch and will cause die back of shoots and branches.  Any dead shoots will need to be cut back to live wood and the shoots then need to be painted with Arbrex Tree Sealant to avoid infection.  The visible symptoms are a silver sheen on the infected leaves.  However, it may not be Silver Leaf Disease it could quite easily have been caused by last year's dry summer which has caused die back on trees and also shrubs. Regarding pruning the Cherry Trees this needs to be done during the summer months to cut down the chance of infection from the Silver Leaf Disease

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Vasanthi Marshall asks...

I have planted my cherry tree last June, and this year it started to flower. I want to know what find of feed should I use for it to grow healthy and how many times should I feed it during the season?

Bill replies...

You will need to use a slow release balanced fertiliser Vasanthi and one of the popular brand products is Vitax Q4 which contains trace elements as well as the main nutrients. For more information on Vitax Q4 log onto www.vitax.co.uk  You can also use Grow More which is also widely used or Fish Blood and Bone Meal.

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Tabitha asks...

Please could you tell me why my dwarf cherry tree now has good foliage growing at the top branches but no foliage further down? Also it is inside since mid December and seems to be much happier?

Bill replies...

Your dwarf Cherry Tree Tabitha is a deciduous tree and if left outside will produce new leaves in the Springtime but by bringing your Cherry Tree indoors you have 'forced' your tree to come into leaf early and you will now need to keep your tree in a very light but cool position to avoid the shoots becoming drawn and etiolated and in the Spring - weather conditions permitting - placing your tree outside again.

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Dave Reid asks...

I have a very large flowering cherry tree - about 40ft high - which is to be thinned and  have the crown lifted. I have two opinions on silver leaf fungus disease; 1 tree surgeon says to wait until June, the other says any time is OK. What is your view?

Bill replies...

The spores of the silver leaf fungi disease are transferred by wind on water droplets and are dominant in very moist damp conditions Dave and these are the main reasons why it is always advisable to prune Cherry Trees during the Summer months with June being the optimum month.  Again with Cherries it is always advisable to treat the pruned branches with Arbrex Tree Sealant.   

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Licas Luce asks...

I would like to repot my cherry trees colt celest in bigger pots, is now the best time? What is the best compost to use? I live in the Channel Islands and the trees face south east, is this a good place for the trees?

Bill replies...

I would wait until early March time Licas before repotting your Cherry Trees.  I would use a soil base compost - John Innes No 3 - and mix with the No 3 compost approximately 25% of multipurpose compost.  I find the multipurpose compost gives the No 3 compost extra texture and body. I did say wait until early March for repotting but as you reside in the Channel Islands you may need to repot slightly earlier - basically they need to be repotted before they come into leaf.

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Catherine asks...

I have a two year old cherry tree which is pinned to my garage wall.  The first year the tree fruited and looked healthy. This year the branches dont have any leaves until about half way up and any leaves that have appeared are badly damaged or eaten, also there has been no fruit.  What is wrong with it and why is it dying?

Bill replies...

What you need to do Catherine with your Cherry Tree is cut some of the old wood back and tie in the new shoots and this will encourage the flowering shoots for the following year.  Regarding the leaves which have been eaten you will need to check to see if there is any damage by aphids or caterpillars.  With the tree being pinned to your garage wall you will need to keep an eye on the watering and you will also need to feed spring and summer time with a general base fertiliser and pruning should be carried out during the summer months to avoid infection by Silver Leaf Disease.

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J P Clark asks...

I have a 20 foot high mature white cherry tree with two large limbs growing over the road. Can I take these off now? I believe that mature cherry trees can only be pruned in mid summer.

Bill replies...

The correct time to prune Cherry and also Plum trees is in the summer months.  The reason being is to avoid infection by the spores of the silver leaf fungal disease which, is dominant during the winter period.  The signs of infection from the disease are that leaves have a silver sheen and, you will also get die back of the branches and main shoots.

You have to balance the risk of waiting till the summer months to prune your Cherry Tree against one, or even both of the large limbs which are hanging over the road - breaking off and causing damage.

I personally, would not take the risk of waiting until the summer months and have the limbs removed as soon as possible. To avoid infection from silver leaf, I would paint the cut limbs with a bitumin sealant which, can be obtained from any Garden Centre or DIY Store.

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Mary Clay asks...

I have a yeodensis ornamental cherry that only got planted a few monts ago and is around 6-8 ft high. It is bleeding sap in various places up the truck and on some branches. What is wrong with it and what can be done?

Bill replies...

If there is orange gluey liquid oozing from the trunk and branches Mary the symptom is synonymous with bacterial canker - which is an air borne fungal disease which enters Cherry Trees through damaged branches and wounds in the tree.  The other disease which your tree could be suffering from is Gummosis which is a physical disorder which causes patches of gluey gum to appear on the surface of the branches and trunk and both Cherry and Plum trees are very susceptible.  You do need to check your tree carefully Mary and if the gluey substance is appearing from damaged branches if could well be canker and you will need to cut out the infected areas and treat the wounds with Aborex.  If there is just patches of glue gum on healthy stems and shoots it could well be Gummosis for which there is no specific cure but applying a good general base fertiliser in early will help to improve the vigour of the tree.

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Wendi asks...

How do you trim a Japanese weeping cherry tree? Do you trim everything from the bottom so that the top remains?

Bill replies...

If the shoots of your Weeping Cherry Wendi are touching the floor then they will need to be lightly pruned back.  But, unless your shoots are vastly overcrowded very little pruning will be required.

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Debbie Stevens asks...

We have bought a house with a cherry tree about eight feet away from our garage. The tree is now about 30ft tall, have no idea how long it has been there. We have now noticed a vertical crack on the side wall of our garage - could this possibly be caused by the tree? If so, is it advisable to have the tree removed or just pruned?  many thanks

Bill replies...

A thirty foot Cherry Tree - eight foot from your wall Debbie is very close indeed and the roots could be quite easily causing damage to your brick work and foundations.  If it is at all possible I would remove the tree but you need to be very careful because I am sure that some of the roots will be in the brick work and these will need to be cut off.  The other alternative would be to cut the main trunk back to base level and to kill the stump and roots you could use a chemical such as Root Out or SBK Brushwood Killer - which can be obtained from Garden Centres.

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Robert asks...

My cherry tree is eaten alive every year after the flowers fall. What can I do to stop it?

Bill replies...

One of the problems with Cherry Trees Robert is that they are prone to attack by aphids or also small caterpillars.  The most troublesome pest being the Cherry Black Fly and the sap sucking insect causes the leaves of the Cherry to distort and curl.  At the first signs of infestation I would spray your tree with a systemic insecticide such a Provado Bug Killer which will help to keep the aphids under control.

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Yvonne Lamb asks...

I have a small cherry tree which I planted last year. I am re-designing my garden and would like to move the cherry tree, am I able to do this without killing it if so what is the best time of year to do this?

Bill replies...

You will be able to transplant your Cherry Tree Yvonne and the time to do this is in the Autumn when your Cherry is dormant but the soil will still be quite warm.  You must ensure when lifting your tree to dig out a good sized root ball and also the hole where you will be transplanting your tree is large enough for the roots to sit comfortably.  Throughout the following Spring/Summer you will need to ensure your tree is kept well watered until the roots have established themselves.

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Tabitha Veall asks...

Hi Bill I have a flowering dwarf cherry tree which lives in a pot. The leaves have holes and the plant is spindly. What shall I do?

Bill replies...

It could be that your Dwarf Cherry is suffering from Shot Hole Disease Tabitha which is a fungal disease and causes brown spots to appear on the leaves - which then turn into small holes. It could also be caused by one of the winter caterpillars which have been troublesome this year, but of the two the symptoms suggest Shot Hole Disease - which quite frequently happens during a very hot/dry period. Regarding treatment you will need to build up your Dwarf Cherry by feeding with a balanced base fertiliser - this needs to be carried out early spring time and also during the summer.  Regarding your Dwarf Cherry looking spindly it could be shortage of nutrients and also growing in a shaded spot.   

last updated: 17/08/2009 at 15:23
created: 20/10/2006

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