Fresh sweet cherries have long been out of reach for most gardeners because the trees grow so big. With careful pruning, you can hold a tree to about 25 feet tall, but it will happily stretch up to 30 or 40 feet tall. These giants are hard to pick and impossible to protect from birds and other pests.
The solution is to buy sweet cherries on a rootstock called 'Gisela'. It makes a tree you can maintain at 10 to 12 fett tall. Growers are especially excited because trees on 'Gisela' begin bearing heavy crops in just three or four years. It was developed in Giessen, Germany, 30 years ago and has been tested by North American researchers for the past 12 years.
Sweet cherries grow best in zones 4 to 7. They need about 600 hours of winter chilling. In the South, high summer temperatures can mean poor fruit. If you have room for only one tree, plant a self-pollinating variety such as 'Stella' or 'Lapins' (a.k.a. 'Starkrimson'). Any of these is a good pollinator for other sweet cherry cultivars when you are ready for a second tree.