We have always loved cherries. When my husband, Jerry, was a child, his mother bought some “Flathead Cherries” and he found out that Flathead Lake in Montana was a cherry growing area. (Flathead is not a variety of sweet cherries—many varieties are grown around Flathead Lake.) He loved to eat sweet cherries and although living in Minnesota then, he thought living in Montana and raising cherries would be the perfect career. Well things didn’t work out exactly as he had hoped, but he did receive a horticulture degree from the University of Minnesota and we did end up living and working in Montana. Not the Flathead Lake area where the climate is moderated by the big lake so sweet cherries thrive there, but here in the Gallatin Valley where pie cherries grow well. So Jerry has become an expert at baking cherry pies made from the cherries on our pie cherry tree.
In Canada where a lot of research and development has been done on hardy plants, the University of Saskatchewan has bred a new series of hardy sour cherries called the “Romance Series”. Crosses of Prunus cerasus and Prunus fruiticosa were released at the Morden Research Center– dwarf, cold hardy pie cherries. Ironically, one of Jerry’s professors from his University of Minnesota days was one of the researchers working on these hybrids. The first new cherry to be released was Carmine Jewel but since then 5 even better varieties have been released. Romeo and Juliet are two of the best of this series.
These new sour cherries are really shrubs, not trees, growing in a nice uniform shape, only 5 to 8 feet tall. They don’t sucker and are hardy to Zone 2. It doesn’t get hardier than that. Juliet, the sweetest cherry of this series, is sweeter than other pie cherries we are familiar with like meteor and Montmorency. Juliet blooms early with lots of white blossoms, abundant dark red fruit, relatively pest-free, and has a high flesh to pit ratio. These tart cherries are self-fertile meaning you don’t need two different varieties to pollinate like sweet cherry trees do.
Plant one of these hardy cherries. They don’t take up much room in your yard and produce a lot of nutritious, delicious fruit.