Cherry trees come in quite an array of colors and sizes. Many gardeners divide cherries into flowering or ornamental varieties, and varieties which produce edible fruit. Both have been cultivated for thousands of years, resulting in a number of very refined cherry cultivars, some of which are highly treasured. Regions like Japan are especially famous for their flowering cherries, while the fruiting cherries of regions like Washington State are also well known in some culinary circles.
Flowering or ornamental cherry trees produce flowers, but no fruit. Some examples of flowering cherries include weeping cherries, Okame, Autumn cherries, Kwanzan cherries, and Yoshino cherries. These trees produce flowers in shades of white to pink, and some have very distinctive foliage, as well. The Autumn cherry blooms twice a year, in spring and in autumn, making it a particularly welcome addition to some gardens. One of the largest collections of flowering cherry trees outside of Japan is in Washington, DC on the National Mall.
Fruit-producing trees can be broken into sweet cherries, also known as wild cherries, and sour cherries. Sweet cherries, as one might imagine, produce fruit which is naturally sweet, while the fruit of sour cherries has a sour note. Eating cherries are usually sweet, while sour cherries are used for canning, pieces, preserves, and other applications in which sugar can be added to temper the sour note of the fruit.
Early Richmond, Rainier, Amur Chokecherry, Bing, Van, Sweetheart, Queen Anne, Stella, and Black Cherries are all some examples of cherry trees which produce edible fruit. In addition to fruiting in the summer to early fall, these trees also produce beautiful flowers in the spring. Some people like to grow fruiting cherries in their gardens so that they can enjoy the blossoms and the fruit, while others prefer to use flowering cherries, to avoid messy accumulations of fruit and pits.
Many garden stores carry cherry seedlings for their customers, and they can order special varieties for people by request. Different cherries thrive in slightly different climates, so it is important to find cherry trees which will safely grow in one's climate zone. A good way to find safe cultivars is to poke around the neighborhood to see if anyone else is growing cherries, and to see how well their trees are doing. If the cherry trees are thriving, the gardener will usually be happy to provide information about the varietal he or she is growing.