Meader Bush Cherries

(Prunus japonica x Prunus jacquemontii)

Meader bush cherry in bloom
Meader bush cherry (‘Joel’) in early bloom

Cultivars tested

‘Jan’, ‘Joel’, ‘Joy’

Description and site preference

Type and size – shrubs, generally less than 4 feet
Hardiness zone – 3-8
Exposure – full sun to partial shade
Soil – all but wet soils
Drainage – moderate to well-drained

Economic factors

Years to harvest – 1-2
Maintenance – intermediate
Life of planting – 20+ years
Machine harvest potential – high
Suitable markets – juice, processed

Notable features

Nutritional highlights – unknown
Adaptability – good
Pest issues – similar to other tart cherries
Invasive potential – none
Environmental benefits – unknown

Integration characteristics

Shared management – high
Shared equipment – high
Shared processing – intermediate
Co-marketing – intermediate with other processed products

Integration potential – good

Could be incorporated in a hedgerow integrated system and provide shared management, including mechanical harvesting.

Dormant Meader bush cherry
Dormant Meader bush cherry

History and background

Selected and introduced by E.M. Meader of the University of New Hampshire, these hybrid cherries have similar characteristics. They all ripen in late August and early September, with the potential to extend the tart cherry season. They have a distinctive flavor that is somewhat of an acquired taste but could be enjoyed as a fresh fruit.

Observations at Carandale Farm

‘Jan’ was acquired from Raintree Nursery in 2003. Plants were small but adapted well and produced a crop the following year. It is a low-growing shrub that suckers readily but has never exceeded three feet in height. ‘Jan’ needs to be cross pollinated by ‘Joel’ or ‘Joy’ for good fruit set.

‘Joel’ and ‘Joy’ were acquired from St. Lawrence Nurseries in 2004. These tissue-cultured plants adapted very well. Both are taller than ‘Jan’ (about four feet) and do not have as much suckering. ‘Joy’ is considered self-fruitful; ‘Joel’ requires cross pollination. Fruit yield has been consistent and good.

Discussion

These plants have received little attention over the last 9-10 years but still persist in the Carandale test plot. Because of its small stature, ‘Jan’ is not as competitive and will require more attention as a commercial crop. With pruning and pest management, the Meader hybrids could be a sustainable crop. Late ripening could help extend the tart cherry season. Their potential to be machine-harvested could give them a place in an integrated system. But these plants will have to compete with the new Romance series of bush cherries coming out of the Canadian breeding program.

References

Edible Landscaping: Joy Bush Cherry

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