There's so much more to a great yard than just mowing the lawn.

Looking for fruit tree? Try Balaton cherry

Balaton cherry blossoms

Balaton cherry blossoms in full bloom May 18, 2013

Five years ago, I planted a dwarf Balaton cherry tree along with three other fruit trees in my yard. I read about it in a list of recommended fruit trees, authored by a fruit expert at Colorado State University.

Today, the Balaton cherry is by far my favorite fruit tree out of the trees I planted. It’s one I would definitely recommend to other Colorado Front Range homeowners who are looking for a fruit tree. Here’s why:

It’s self-pollinating

Self-pollinating trees are great for homeowners. Why? Because you only need one tree in order to get fruit. It’s perfect for those of us who only have space for one fruit tree.

If a fruit tree is not self-pollinating, you have to plant two compatible trees of the same species that flower at the same time in order to get fruit. You avoid this whole complication by choosing a fruit tree that can pollinate itself. Perfect for self-reliant westerners.

It’s late-blooming

Remember how cold it was in April? The freezes killed the blossoms on early-blooming trees like crabapples, apples, apricots, and hybrid plums.

My Balaton cherry blooms two to three weeks later than other fruit trees. Its blooms weren’t damaged this year. In fact, it’s in full bloom right now, totally unscathed by the wacky April weather. Colorado Front Range homeowners will benefit from choosing a late-blooming fruit tree; that is if you’d like your tree to produce fruit reliably each year.

It’s incredibly beautiful

Not only doe Balaton cherry produce fruit, it’s incredibly beautiful as a landscape plant. It has stunning, pure white blossoms in May, plus dark, glossy red bark. The contrast between the dark bark and the white flowers causes neighborhood walkers to stop and admire it.

Once it leafs out, it’s covered with dark green leaves. With good pruning the first few years, it develops a tidy, upright shape. I would probably plant it solely for its beauty.

Balaton cherry bark

Deep red, glossy bark of Balaton cherry

It’s produces fruit

Balaton cherry is advertised as a “sweet-sour” cherry. Most other cherry cultivars belong to either the sweet category (which don’t grow all that well along Colorado’s Front Range) or the sour category. Sour cherries generally are very reliable fruit producers in our area but aren’t really edible as fresh fruit.

By July, my Balaton cherry is covered with medium-red cherries. If I pick them early, they are definitely sour. If I leave them on the tree longer, they eventually turn sweet enough I can eat them fresh. I have to admit, my young children don’t think they’re too tasty without being cooked in a dessert, but I really enjoy them. The birds agree with me, so bird netting is a definite must.

It’s small

I chose to plant a dwarf Balaton. After five years, it’s about 6 feet tall and 5 feet wide. It grows about 6 inches each year. Small fruit trees are great, especially if you’re trying to save some of your yard for ornamental landscape plants. Small trees are also easier to cover with bird netting to protect the developing fruit.

Where to get it

I purchased my dwarf Balaton cherry tree from Starks Bros. Nursery as a bare root tree. Nurseries ship bare root trees in early spring before they leaf out. It’s too late to buy one as a bare root tree this spring.

If you’d like to get one for you own yard, keep an eye out for it as a containerized tree (grown in a pot) or mark your calendar to order one online in January. You’ll be glad you saved a spot for it.

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