By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer
What are Emperor Francis cherries? These juicy, super sweet cherries, which originated in the United Kingdom, are plump and delicious, perfect eaten fresh or for making homemade maraschinos or luscious jams and jellies. Read on for more information on growing Emperor Francis Cherries
About Emperor Francis Cherry Trees
Emperor Francis sweet cherry trees are suitable for growing in USDA plant hardiness zones 5 through 7. Plant at least two or three trees nearby for pollination, including one variety that flowers about the same time.
Good choices include any sweet cherry except Bing, such as:
- Stark Gold
- White Gold
Growing Emperor Francis Cherries
Plant Emperor Francis cherry trees in late fall or early spring. These cherry trees need at least six hours of sunlight per day, preferably more. The trees won’t bloom without adequate sunlight.
Plant Emperor Francis cherry trees in a location where the soil drains well. Avoid areas that are prone to flooding or where the water doesn’t drain well after a rainfall.
Emperor Francis Cherry Care
Provide Emperor Francis sweet cherries with about 1 inch (2.5 cm.) of water per week when the trees are young, or a little more when during hot, dry periods, but don’t overwater. As a general rule, you should water whenever the soil feels slightly dry.
Surround the tree with 3 inches (8 cm.) of mulch to prevent moisture evaporation. Mulch will also keep weeds in check and prevent temperature fluctuations that can cause fruit to split.
Fertilize Emperor Francis cherry trees every spring, about a month before flowering, until the trees begin to bear fruit. Use a light application of a low-nitrogen fertilizer. Once the trees begin to bear fruit, fertilize annually after the completion of harvest.
Prune the cherry trees in late winter. Remove dead or damaged growth and branches that cross or rub other branches. Thin the middle of the tree to improve air circulation and prevent mold and mildew. Remove suckers from the base of the tree by pulling them straight up and out of the ground. Otherwise, like weeds, suckers rob the tree of moisture and nutrients.
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Read more about Cherry Trees
Who We Are
We are a commercial nursery and work strictly in fruit tree propagation. We grow and handle approximately one million trees annually, and 95% of these trees are distributed to commercial fruit growers throughout the United States and Canada. This has been our business and privilege for over a century. Over the years we have also developed a wonderful following of backyard gardeners and hobbyists, and we are pleased to reserve a percentage of our inventory to fill these smaller orders. We are inspired by these growers' enthusiasm and quest for knowledge and want to do our part to support and educate this sector of our customer base. But please keep in mind that we still operate as a commercial nursery. We do not have picture tags, we are not set up to pot the trees and we do not provide USDA zones on our variety pages. We receive many questions every year and we spent some time compiling them for our FAQ page. Please refer to this page for any questions you may have, and of course contact us if you have any further questions.
We want our customers to understand and appreciate that fruit trees are not low maintenance plants. Fruit trees require work, and the amount of work you put into them directly correlates to yield and fruit quality. Good pruning, spraying and thinning practices go a long way. The rewards are plenty if the trees are given the care and attention they need. Please consider this an investment in both money and time.
Availability and Ordering Process
Commercial fruit tree demand has been very high over the past several years, and our commercial growers order trees 1-2 years in advance. By the time springtime rolls around we are sold out of many items. We always encourage early ordering. You are welcome to reserve trees/place your order at any time. If you wish to order more than 8 months in advance please contact us directly.
Also, please note that we are not able to offer every variety/rootstock combination that we grow to our retail customers. Even though the listing must be somewhat limited, we will still make every effort to provide a comprehensive collection of varieties to our hobbyist growers.
Please know that this side of our site is designed to take orders of less than 25 trees. If you are ordering a total of more than 25 trees please submit an order on the commercial side of our site, so that the trees pull from the correct inventory.
We supply 2-year bare root trees. They are dug in the late fall season, graded, counted, tied up and put in cold storage for the winter months. The trees are still dormant when we distribute them in the springtime. All of our trees are the same age however by nature, there is some size variance throughout the field. The average tree size you can expect to receive is 4-5' in height and ½-⅝'' in caliper.
Our guarantee is similar to that of other commercial nurseries and applies to both our commercial and retail orders. We have a limited warranty that covers the first growing season. Most mail-order nurseries have a one-year warranty, but we do not. If your trees do not start or if you have any problems with them please let us know by July 1st of the same year and we will replace them at no cost to you the following spring. If we are notified by September 1st of the year the trees were planted we will replace them at one half of the current list price. To read our full policy please see Our Terms & Conditions of Sale.
Growing Peaches, Pears, Cherries and Strawberries in an Unheated High Tunnel
View the project final report
- Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
- Farm Business Management: feasibility study, agritourism
- Production Systems: general crop production
- Soil Management: soil chemistry
- Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities
This project involves planting peach, pear, sweet cherry, and sour cherry trees in an unheated 30×48 foot high tunnel. Strawberries are planted along the outer edges where the tunnel is too low for trees to grow. Similar trees are planted outside for use as a control.
The high tunnel was ordered and erected in the spring of 2014. The fruit trees were planted, staked, labeled, and tree wraps applied in June 2014. Strawberries were also planted in June 2014. Soaker hoses were laid by the trees and strawberries. Irrometers were installed along each row of fruit trees. Landscape fabric is installed between the tree rows and along the ends. Trees ordered for the project are all hardy to zones 4 or 5 and are either dwarf or semi-dwarf. The trees included in this project are as follows:
PEACH TREES: Burbank July Elberta Peach Dwarf Supreme
Starking Delicious Peach Dwarf Supreme
Stark Elberta Queen Peach Dwarf Supreme
Stark Early White Giant Peach Dwarf Supreme
Reliance Peach Dwarf Supreme
PEAR TREES: Moonglow Pear Dwarf
Starking Delicious Pear Dwarf
Stark Honeysweet Pear Dwarf
SWEET CHERRY TREES: Emperor Francis Sweet Cherry Semi-dwarf Supreme
Starkrimson Sweet Cherry Dwarf Supreme
SOUR CHERRY TREES: English Morello Cherry Dwarf
Montmorency Cherry Dwarf
During the summer of 2014 there were 8 trees that did not grow – 2 Sweet Cherry Starkrimson, 2 Peach Early White Giant, 3 Peach Starking Delicious, and 1 Pear Moonglow. The winter of 2014-15 took a huge toll on the fruit trees. The 2 sour cherry trees were the only trees to survive in the outside control group. The results in the high tunnel were as follows:
PEACH TREES: Early Elberta Queen Peach – all 4 winterkilled
July Elberta Peach – all 4 winterkilled
Early White Giant Peach – 2 never grew and 2 winterkilled
Relaince Peach – 3 winterkilled and 1 survived
Starking Delicious Peach – 2 never grew and 2 winterkilled
PEAR TREES: Honeysweet Pear – all 4 survived
Moonglow Pear – 3 winterkilled and 1 survived
Starking Delicious Pear – all 4 winterkilled
SWEET CHERRY TREES: Emperor Francis – all 4 winterkilled
Starkrimson – 2 never grew and 2 winterkilled
SOUR CHERRY TREES: English Morello – all 4 survived
Montmorency – all 4 survived
Replacement trees were ordered for all the trees that did not survive in the high tunnel. The fruit trees had a one year guarantee so they were replaced free of charge. All the dead trees in the high tunnel were dug up and the replacement trees were planted in May 2015. Trunk diameter was measured and recorded for each tree on June 21, 2015 and again on October 14, 2015. The average increase of trunk diameter for trees in the high tunnel is shown below:
PEACH TREES: Early Elberta Queen – 4 replants – .146
July Elberta – 4 replants (2 never grew) – .106
Early White Giant – 4 replants(1 never grew) .105
Reliance – survivor – .474
Reliance – 3 replants – .136
Starking Delicious – 4 replants – .077
PEAR TREES: Honeysweet – 4 survivors – .088
Moonglow – survivor – .036
Moonglow – 3 replants – .043
Starking Delicious – 3 replants(1 never grew) – .017
Starking Delicious Pear replanted with Starking Delicious Peach – .040
SWEET CHERRY TREES: Emperor Francis – 4 replants(1 never grew) – .103
Starkrimson: 4 replants(2 never grew) – .284
SOUR CHERRY TREES: English Morello – 4 survivors – .050
English Morello – 1 outside survivor(Oct 2014 to Oct. 2015) – .415
Montmorency – 4 survivors – .176
Montmorency – 1 outside survivor(Oct. 2014 to Oct. 2015) – .415
In late winter all the leaves were knocked off the fruit trees and then the trees were pruned. In mid April the first leaves appeared on the Honeysweet pears and the sour cherry trees started blooming the first week of May. One of the Honeysweet pear trees produced a single blossom. When measuring trunk diameter on the fruit trees in June spider mites were found on some of the pear trees. A powder was tried on them, but it didn’t do much good. Then a soap mix was sprayed on the mites and that took care of alot of them. The soap mix spray was applied 2 more times in July. The first week of July we figured out the sour cherry trees had Cherry Leaf Spot – it was causing the sour cherry tree leaves and blossoms to fall off. The trees were sprayed with a fungicide and that stopped the leaves from dropping off, but all the blossoms were lost so no fruit from the high tunnel trees. 6 sour cherries were harvested from the 2 control trees outside – all smaller than my fingernail.
Evie II strawberries were planted along both side walls of the high tunnel in May 2014. Most of the strawberries on the west wall came back in the spring of 2015 so they were left to grow and produced berries all summer and fall – last picking was in the first week of November. The strawberries along the east wall all died out during the 2014-15 winter so they were replanted with June bearing strawberries from beds we had elsewhere in the garden. Our strawberries in the garden did poorly so the strawberries in the high tunnel produced enough for our own use this summer, but not enough to sell.
Bird netting was installed along the side walls in April 2015 so the sides could be left open for better air flow. This helped with the mold problem we had on the strawberries last summer.
There was a garter snake in the high tunnel throughout the spring and early summer that kept the cricket problem under control.
The soaker hoses were left in the high tunnel over winter. The irrometers were pulled last fall when it got down to freezing at night and reinstalled this spring when we were ready to start irrigating again. They were pulled again this fall when it started freezing and will be reinstalled in the spring
The winter of 2014-15 we kept the high tunnel closed up. After losing the majority of our fruiit trees during the winter further study was done of the weather records. The conclusion was drawn that there was too much temperature flucuation inside with the tunnel closed up. Following is an example of temperatures for one week in Feb., 2014:
INSIDE HIGH TUNNEL OUTSIDE HIGH TUNNEL
DAY HIGH LOW HIGH LOW
16 54.2 0.1 16.4 -14.2
17 42.3 -10.3 0.2 -18.0
18 44.9 -17.2 -2.4 -27.5
19 47.9 -15.3 18.5 -28.7
20 53.6 13.1 23.3 5.7
21 51.7 -11.8 5.8 -23.4
22 35.9 -19.5 -7.3 -32.9
By the first week of December most of the leaves had dropped so the final cleanup of leaves was done on Dec. 4. By mid December daytime highs were staying below freezing so on Dec. 13 the sides of the high tunnel were opened up to see if the trees will survive the colder temperatures without the temperature flucuations of last winter when the tunnel was closed up.
A tour of our high tunnels and garden was held on Sept. 28 with 12 people in attendance. On October 16 we along with other area farmers worked with Dakota College at Bottineau and Dickinson State University on a video they produced. They had a NIFA grant to produce a recruitment video for the colleges. Most of the video is on vegetable production, but there are a few shots of the fruit trees and the weather station in the high tunnel. The video can be viewed at https://youtu.be/KPWXZU5OPol or at https://www.facebook.com/ndveggies.
Following is the average number or years it takes for the trees to start bearing fruit and the average yield that can be expected from the various types of dwarf fruit trees under normal growing conditions:
TYPE OF TREE STARTS BEARING FRUIT AVERAGE YIELD
Dwarf Pear Trees 4-6 years 6-8 bushels
Dwarf Peach Trees 2-4 years 3-4 bushels
Dwarf Sweet Cherry Trees 4-7 years 8-10 gallons
Dwarf Sour Cherry Trees 3-5 years 3-5 gallons
Peach, pear and cherry trees do not thrive in Zone 3 where we live and garden. We hope that by planting these fruit trees in an unheated high tunnel they will grow and thrive when they are sheltered from the elements. Fall bearing strawberries will be planted along the 2 outer walls where it is not high enough to grow fruit trees. This will enable us to further diversify our crops and increase our sales at local farmer’s markets. We hope to show other growers that it is economically feasible to grow these fruit trees in high tunnels.
The orchard at my Bedford, New York farm continues to grow and thrive.
The large orchard surrounding my pool is filled with a variety of apple trees, plum trees, cherry trees, peach, pear, apricot, and quince trees - more than 200 in all. Many of these trees have already produced lots of beautiful, delicious fruits. Last week, I decided to plant a few more specimens - some to replace trees that were not developing as well, but most as additions to the huge field. I turned to Windy Hill Farm in Great Barrington, Massachusetts for this newest selection. Windy Hill Farm is a family owned and operated horticultural operation that focuses on flowering trees, ornamental shrubs, conifers, broadleaf evergreens, tree fruits, and more.
Here are some photos - enjoy.Windy Hill Farm is in western Massachusetts – not far from the Connecticut border. It includes a seven-acre apple orchard, a one-acre blueberry field, eight acres of field-grown specialty ornamental nursery stock, a retail garden center, and a full-service landscape department.
It was started in 1980 as a part-time business on an abandoned dairy farm. Owners Dennis and Judy Mareb opened Windy Hill to the public in 1986. The garden center is a 36-foot by 24-foot timber-frame structure cut from hemlocks on the property.
Surrounding the garden center is a two-acre yard displaying an extensive selection of plants, shrubs, and trees.
Windy Hill offers many traditional favorites, including native species as well as cultivars and selections from across the United States and abroad.
This is a ‘Vanilla Twist’ Weeping Redbud, Cercis canadensis – a captivating small tree that shows off a canopy of beautifully cascading branches of white blooms in early spring.
An uncovered hoop house displays lots of the smaller specimens – all well-maintained and lush.
Here is a nine-foot larch, Larix K ‘Varied Directions’ – a vigorous and spreading grower with robust twigs that propel branches up and out in varied directions.
The branches eventually arch down and cover the ground with bright green spring foliage that changes to gold before the needles fall in autumn. One of my favorite weeping larch trees is the one planted at the end of my farm’s Pin Oak Allee – a European cultivar, Larix decidua “Pendula”.
Windy Hill Farm also has a section for shade loving perennials – everything is very well-marked with plant descriptions and blooming flower images.
This section is dedicated to small succulents.
And here’s a table filled with shade-tolerant hostas. I have many hostas growing at the farm – they’re so beautiful with their large green leaves.
Inside the retail garden center – lots of seed potatoes.
And a rack filled with vegetable seeds – good reminders for those who still have to get their summer crops into the ground.
I purchased a total of 18 fruit trees. Here they are being wheeled out and loaded onto our truck.
A few hours later, they’re all safely transported to my farm and unloaded.
This is my orchard. We planted these trees a couple of years ago and I am so pleased with how well they have developed.
These trees produced many fruits in the first season – in part because of how nutrient-rich the soil is. When choosing to grow fruit stock, it is very important to select those that are best for your area’s climate and soil.
The new trees were planted the very next day. Among them, this peach “White Lady”, which produces delicious white-fleshed freestones with low acid and a full, rich flavor.
This peach variety is called ‘Redhaven’ – a blue-ribbon, all-purpose peach, with luscious, top-quality fruit that’s great as a fresh snack or for canning and freezing.
And this peach tree is called ‘Blushing Star’. This cultivar is a late-season, easy-care peach tree. It provides prolific harvests of beautiful fruit with firm white flesh and a unique, sweet flavor.
I also got a few more apricot trees. This is apricot ‘Chinese Mormon’. It produces heavy crops of medium yellow to orange fruit with excellent flavor and texture early in the growing season.
Sweet Cherry ‘Ranier’ (Mazzard) is one of the most in-demand varieties, for both its taste and its beauty. This variety produces large, yellow fruit with a half-red blush. The fruits are very firm, with sweet flesh and wonderful flavor that’s excellent for baking, canning, freezing and eating out of hand.
Sweet cherry ‘White Gold’ is a sweet cross with great looks and taste. This heavy-cropping tree is the offspring of ‘Emperor Francis’ and ‘Stella’ cherry parents. It bears gorgeous yellow-blushed-red sweet cherries that mature in mid-cherry-season.
‘Regina’ cherry produces very large, dark red, firm, late-season sweet cherries with low-acid flavor and a crunchy texture.
I will share more updates as the fruits appear. What fruit trees are growing in your garden? Share your favorites with me in the section below.