Edible Landscaping: Nanking Cherry Bushes
Two years ago I planted three Nanking Cherry Bushes along the fence in our garden. I’d read about what a beautiful ornamental shrub they make and how productive they are, and thought they’d be a perfect addition to our edible landscaping. They’ve done well here in zone 7, I definitely plan on planting more around the garden where they can get full sun. Maybe I can propagate some cuttings?
March 2016: The Second Year
Here’s what the Nanking Cherry Bushes looked like in March. They’ve grown extremely quickly from the 12″ plants that I initially received. The blooms came early, so the plants actually began bearing before the last frost. We lost some of the developing fruit when heavy frosts came in April, but fortunately the entire harvest wasn’t spoiled.
The blossoms are lovely pink flowers with a sweet fragrance. They were constantly buzzing with bees in early Spring.
May 2016: Harvest
Pretty much every branch on the bush is loaded with cherries. They’re small fruits, about a 1/2 inch in size, with a pit in the middle. The flavor is a nice combination of sweet, tart, and tangy. They’d be great for jellies or pies, but are also tasty straight off the bush.
My children have greatly enjoyed our weekends home when they can sit out in the garden under the bushes, stripping the branches clean of their ripe red cherries and spitting the hard pits. I imagine the birds have enjoyed them as well.
When I first put them in the ground, buried at the same depth the soil was at when they shipped, they looked so far apart spaced at a distance of 6 feet. Two years later the branches are touching with just enough space to stand between the bushes for harvesting. If you decide you want to plant a few Nanking Cherry Bushes around your place, definitely give them adequate space to grow. They make a lovely edible hedge.
If you can’t find Nanking Cherry Bush plants locally, you can order them online. I got mine from Gurney’s. Another nursery that I’ve ordered from and have been happy with is Stark Bro’s, which carries a similar variety called Hansen’s Bush Cherry. It might be worth having both varieties to see if the season can be extended. It looks like Hansen’s cherries might set fruit later than Nankings, which would give you a longer harvest time.