I was wondering if anyone had experience growing Nanking Cherries. The descriptions from places like Raintree say that they are really hardy and produce lots of cherries their second year, and are easy to prune and can form hedges, etc. But, I've also read of people having lots of their Nankings die on them, or never produce fruit, etc. Have you grown them? Do they do well?
I'm especially wondering if they'll do okay in a more moist environment. We get about 50 inches of rain a year, and our soil can get soggy. I read that Nankings like drier soils and have really shallow root system (the shallow root system is supposedly great for near septic systems, since they don't reach down and get in the pipes).
Nanking Cherries grow great for me in USDA zone 4b with somewhat alkaline soil. Because they are typically seed grown, there can be great plants and mediocre plants. Bird predation of the fruits is a problem in my garden. We planted a whole ecosystem designed specifically to attract birds, so we set ourselves up for that. The bushes seem short lived. We end up replacing them from time to time.
I've grown Nanking Cherries now for 7 years and love them. They've been hammered brutally by rabbits and rebounded, deal with rough winters with no problems (5b for me, last winter was a doozy and they had no problems), and make carpets of seedlings to expand the empire. I recommend them strongly, and they fare well in shade I've found. In fact, the ones in blazing full sun tend to die off on me sooner. I'd consider them a not-incredibly-long-lived shrub that you can get fresh babies from to continue onward. For what its worth, my nursery in central NY state has plenty of beautiful babies available... http://www.edibleacres.org/purchase/nanking-cherry I can also provide fresh seed in the summer if there is interest.
I think this is a really under appreciated permaculture plant indeed!
I have 5 I got as 3 inch seedlings as a gift, I didn't think they'd live a year.
5 years later they are 6' tall and a staple of my garden. Not an eating cherry since the pit to fruit ratio is about 50/50, but I made excellent wine from them this past summer and they would make a nice addition to lots of things with their tart flavor.
3 of the 5 are excellent bearers, 1 has smaller fruit but tastes ok, 1 has noticeably bigger and better tasting fruit, one is in the middle of those two.
The other two interestingly bear little to no fruit, but have other characteristics. One is small and somewhat pathetic, the other is a monster and has always been faster grower.