All About Dukes - Cherry And Cherry Hybrids

Cherries and cherries are fruit crops of the same family. Accidental successful re-pollination of cherry and cherry trees gave rise to a new kind of fruit crop, which was popularly called cherry, cherry-cherry and other, difficult to pronounce, names. Our love of abbreviations has not failed this time, either. From the name of the English variety of cherry, bred in England in the 17th century, and named May Duke (May-Duke), in Russia has fixed abbreviated name Duke, which means "Duke". Gardeners liked the crop, especially for the fact that the plants have gained great resistance to sub-zero temperatures and diseases of some fungal diseases.

All about dukes - cherry and cherry hybrids
Hybrid cherry with cherry, Duke variety Pivonia

Since 1926, Duke began to master the space of the USSR. And by the beginning of the 90's of the 20th century, more than 30 varieties and hybrids added to the catalogs of dukes, advanced far beyond the Central Black Earth regions.

Where do dukes grow?

Southern regions and nearby areas received excellent, winter-hardy for these climatic conditions, varieties of dukes: Excellent Veniaminova, Saratov baby, Melitopol joy. Ukrainians obtained a variety of dukes for southern areas with a very practical easy-to-remember name "Miracle Cherry", which even today takes the leading place in private gardens and dacha settlements.

Breeders' work with insufficiently winter-hardy varieties of parent pairs allowed to obtain a number of dukes capable of growing and forming high yields in the northern areas. Thus, the variety Beauty of the North, bred by I. Michurin, grows and bears fruit not only in his native Michurinsk, but also in the Moscow and Leningrad regions, in Nizhny Novgorod. Dukes are successfully grown in the southern areas of the Central Black Earth region, some areas of Novosibirsk region.

Dukes grow and bear fruit in Western Siberia (Ivanovna, Spartanka), in the middle belt and northern regions (Kormilitsa, Zhukovskaya, Ivanovna, Dorodnaya and others). In Khabarovsk Territory, a collection of dukes of the following varieties has been tested and recommended for cultivation: Prekhodnaya Vel'yaminova, Fesanna, Krepkaya, Pamyati Vavilova, Mayak, Nadezhda, Zhukovskaya.

The most winter hardy varieties (almost not suffering from spring and autumn temperature variations with short-term frosts) were obtained by breeders from crossing American winter hardy high-yield varieties. Trees successfully endure frosts of -25...-35°C.

For more details on variety diversity of dukes see article "Best varieties of fruit crops for cold regions"

All about dukes - cherry and cherry hybrids
Sapling dukes, cherry-cherry hybrid. © Daniel

External Characteristics of Dukes

Dukes are stone fruit crops and are cherry-cherry hybrids. If we compare dukes with their parents, the "children", having taken an intermediate place, took all the best from the parental pairs, but still the absolute majority of varieties turned out to be self-fertile. Because of the beauty of abundant but empty flowering, dukes are often used as a beautiful ornamental crop in the countryside.

Self-fertility of hybrid culture is associated with the impact of weather conditions. Abrupt changes in temperature, both unexpected frosts and strong heat, negatively affect the physiological processes in the plant, responsible for the formation of pollen and ovule. The number of normally developed, pollinator-capable duca flowers may decrease to 1%, and sometimes sexually mature flowers are not formed at all. If only 3-5% of flowers develop normally, the crop is literally hung with tasty large fruits with tender flesh of various shades. Cherry-cherry hybrids in the south and in regions with mild winters form mighty trees with wide-spread crowns. Breeders obtained varieties of dukes that bear fruit freely in cold regions of the North and Siberia, but there it is more practical to grow them in bush form. Hybrids in appearance and quality of fruits are more similar to cherries. Leaves are more similar to cherry leaves in density of leaflets and their size. Leaves are long-petioled, the arrangement on the shoots is alternate. Coloration is deep green.

The central trunk of dukes and perennial shoots are smooth (cherry-like), bark color is dark brown. Sometimes skeletal shoots are arranged at an acute angle to the central trunk.

Depending on the region and climatic conditions, flowering may be early or late. For example, in the middle part of Russia dukes bloom in the last decade of June, in the south - in May. Flowers are white or slightly pink in color and are arranged in bouquet-like inflorescences on annual shoots.

Duke flowers are early crops, and if good pollinators are selected, they produce a first (test) crop of fruit in the third year. At the end of flowering the non-pollinated flowers fall off. Formed fruits, on the contrary, remain on branches for a long time and even improve their taste qualities.

Fruits of dukes are unusually tasty. Imagine a large cherry, whose dense sweetish-grassy flesh became more delicate, acquired ennobling cherry flavor with a pleasant refreshing aftertaste.

Biological features of dukes

Dukes differ from parental pairs by self-fertility. Therefore, they cannot tolerate "solitude." If you want to get annual harvests, it is necessary to plant dukes surrounded by cherries and cherries of better zoned varieties. Dukes are weak pollinators for each other. In the Central Black Earth zone and the middle belt of Russia, where today dukes are spreading rapidly in private orchards, the self-breeding cherry variety Lyubskaya, as well as the varieties Molodezhnaya, Bulatnikovskaya can be used as pollinators.

The best pollinators for dukes are still cherries, especially the variety Iput (an ideal pollinator). When buying seedlings for the first time, be careful. Be sure to buy both a duke and a pollinator at once. With a quality pollinator, more than 1/3 of normally developed flowers are pollinated each year. Trees are then literally covered with fruits.

Duke trees are more winter-hardy than cherries, but inferior to cherries in resistance to frost. Therefore, in northern areas they are grown as bushes, which allows you to cover the culture from the winter cold.

Dukes have another valuable property. They are resistant to coccomycosis and moniliosis. These diseases have literally mowed down most cherry orchards in recent years. Many Duc varieties are virtually unaffected by the cherry fly.

All about dukes - cherry and cherry hybrids
Flowering Duc. © Oksana Gula

Agro-technical peculiarities of growing dukes in the dacha

Selecting a place for planting

Duke-cherry-cherry plantings are better performed in the form of separate spikes (i.e. small groves). Both aesthetically and for the organization of care, such a variant is the most optimal. If 1-2 trees are purchased for the dacha, it is necessary to choose a place illuminated by the sun during the whole day (not to shove plants into the shade), as well as protected from wind and draughts.

Duks cannot tolerate boggy areas, and therefore for planting it is necessary to use elevated places, with groundwater occurrence below 2 meters from the soil surface.

Selection of planting material

To avoid being deceived by an unscrupulous seller, dukes seedlings should be bought only from farms engaged in propagation and sale of planting material or from specialized stores. Each sapling should have a tag with indication of basic parameters: age, name of variety, desired pollinator and other data.

2 to 3 years old duk seedling should have straight trunk, undamaged, well developed root system. Roots at the transverse incision must be alive (white in color). The bark of the duk shoots and the trunk itself is evenly colored, without gum drips and other damages. Seedlings can be planted in spring and fall, according to recommendations.

All about dukes - cherry and cherry hybrids
Cherry cherry- cherry hybrid. © Daniel

Planting Duke

The soil should have a neutral acidity (pH=7). If necessary, it is neutralized with lime, adding 0.8-1.0 kg of lime per planting hole. If the soil is clayey, heavy, then before planting the soil from the pit is mixed with sand in a ratio of 1:1.

Duks have a good feature. They do not tolerate overfeeding. Therefore, when preparing planting pits should not be carried away with the preparation of soil mixtures over-enriched with mineral and organic fertilizers. And in the future, on nutritious soil, it is better not to fertilize dukes. Overfed trees grow intensively, do not have time to prepare the wood for wintering (it does not mature).

The unmature wood is much worse for wintering and can cause the death of the whole tree. With proper preparation of dukes for wintering from severe frosts can freeze flower buds, individual shoots, but the tree as a whole, even at -35 ... -40 ° C, will survive.

Planting pits for dukes are located every 4-5 meters, so that old trees do not shade each other and do not intertwine branches. Under planting for 1 planting hole make 300-400 g of superphosphate, 250-300 g of sulfate potassium, 2-3 cups of ash. In depleted soils, up to 1 bucket of compost or humus. The components are mixed with the top layer of soil. After planting, up to 2 buckets of water are poured under the seedling. Until the root system develops, dukes seedlings are watered 2-3 times a month with a sufficient amount of water.

Culture drought-resistant. Mature trees do not need special watering.

Feeding of young seedlings is carried out 2 times a season. The first fertilizer until the end of June spend nitrogen fertilizers - not more than 15-20 grams per tree before watering and the second - in autumn with phosphorus-potassium fertilizers, respectively, 30 and 20 grams per tree. The root neck of a deuk seedling should be at the level of the soil. Its deepening retards the development of the culture.

The first pruning is done after planting the duk. The seedling is shortened to 60-70 cm. The central conductor should be 20-25 cm above the side branches. Lateral, well developed, strong branches are shortened by 1/3, weak branches are cut out on a ring.

The root system of dukes is so powerful that it is able to independently provide the tree, which has entered into fruiting, with the necessary amount of nutrients. By this time, feeding and watering are reduced to a minimum or stopped.

In winter, young trees are protected from pests (rabbits, mice, etc.). In northern regions, especially with unstable autumn-spring period, young trees are covered against temperature drops. It is more practical (as already noted) in such areas to form dukes in bush form.

Planning, basic care, pruning and propagation in dukes practically does not differ from parental (cherries and cherries).

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