cherry tree: Balaton or Blackgold?

gardenjobberApril 30, 2013


I have space for a single tree and want to plant a self-pollinating cherry. I want cherries primarily for fresh eating. I'm thinking of either a Balaton or a Blackgold and have read generally good things about both on this forum. Can anyone comment on whether Blackgold as a sweet cherry is considerably tastier eaten fresh? Would it be more prone to problems as I've read sweet cherries are? Finally, this is a pretty conspicuous spot in my small yard. Are either of them likely to be better from an ornamental point of view? Or are there other varieties I should consider?


Thanks for any feedback!

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dmtaylor(5a (WI))

I haven't heard of Balaton, but what I can tell you is that last year, I did a lot of research as to what one variety of sweet cherry to plant in my yard, as I wanted just one self-fruitful tree. And the result? I planted a Black Gold. It is only about 5 feet tall right now but it grew very well last year and the buds are swollen again this year, so I'm expecting great things. Reason I got this variety? It seems more cold hardy, self-pollinating, and got good reviews on flavor, and seems less prone to cracking than many of the other varieties although I think if you get a heavy rain right at harvest time you are screwed no matter what variety you get. Also I got mine on Gisela 5 dwarfing rootstock so it will never grow too far out of reach. Based on my limited experience plus all the things I have read, I see no reason NOT to recommend Black Gold to you.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2013 at 6:50PM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

Their could not be more of a difference. one is tart, fairly new to the Americas, developed in Hungary, best used for cooking., The other Sweet, developed by Cornell. Which for reference has developed some excellent products. Tart cherries are not any easier to grow than sweet. All the problems with sweet, you will have with tart too! The birds, the bugs and fungus. I don't know much about Balaton as it is not grown here but in Europe. Michigan the leading producer of tart cherries does not grow many of this cultivar. I'm sure some are trying it now, but it is very different from Montmorency which is the standard in MI. MSU has studied Balaton for 15 years now.
Balaton is more susceptible to winter injury than Montmorency, and in fact, it behaves more like some sweet cherry varieties in this regard.So it is doubtful it will replace the standard here. But Balaton is sweeter, and firmer, darker in color. Yield is higher than Montmorency. It sounds like an awesome cherry! Some for sure will grow them here.
Blackgold is a great choice for sweet cherry. I don't have one, but it is on my want list. I have Whitegold, and a Glacier, plus 4 tart cherry trees. I heard the taste is fantastic, but so is Glacier, both dark cherries. I wanted a lighter colored rainier type cherry so choose Whitegold also developed by Cornell. I also have raspberries from Cornell that are killer!
I myself want both, so for tart cherries I grow the new Canadian hybrids Carmine Jewel and Crimson Passion. And I'm currently trying to obtain a Cupid, these cherries are part of the Romance series. Their is Romeo and Juliet too. They are tart cherries crossed with a Mongolian cherry. They have high brix for a tart cherry. Balaton sounds very good though. Thanks for bringing it up! I want to explore that one more myself.

If you want a cherry that is excellent for fresh eating go with Blackgold. If you want a cherry that is tart, but still probably could eat fresh, and cook with it, or mix in yogart, etc. Go with Balaton.
For cooking the Balaton wins hands down. For fresh eating the Blackgold wins hands down.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2013 at 7:10PM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

DMtaylor is right on, what he said! Darn i want one now!
Well i always wanted one, but man I need to find room somewhere....What he said holds true for Whitegold too! Yes Gisela rootstock is also the only way I would take one. Anybody using this rootstock though should check the MSU sites on how to trim these beasts.

Here is a link that might be useful: MSU cherry info

    Bookmark   April 30, 2013 at 7:23PM
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I am in Central MA. I have a Black Gold and a Vandalay on Gisela 5 from Raintree since 2010.

They sent me big trees (bare root with a diameter at least 1" ) and almost 4 ft tall. Now that I know better, I'd have headed it back to 3 ft. at planting.

Black Gold fruited in the 2nd year, a couple but it fruited. I was not around to pick. My friend picked them and liked them. Last year both fruited between 10-15 cherries per tree. When they about to ripe, it rained. By the time I checked them, all cracked and rotted.

My trees have grown very well. They came as an open-centered trees so I've left them that way. The taller branches are over 6 ft now. I may need a ladder to prune them next year!!!

I spray with Kocide in late fall and early spring so I have minimal issue with canker (knock on wood, so far). Aphids and birds are my big issues if you don't count rain.

You may want to consider White Gold instead of Black Gold. Some of us here said, with light color cherries on White Gold, birds don't go after them as much as the dark cherries.

I can't do it over because I run out of space for cherries (I also have a Danube, sour cherry). Otherwise, I would go for White Gold.

Right now, my Black Gold's blooms are not yet opened. Both trees have loads of flowers. Vandalay blooms about 2 weeks ahead of Black Gold in my yard.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2013 at 8:30PM
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milehighgirl(CO USDA 5B/Sunset 2B)

I had a few Black Gold last year. The pit is about the size of a commercial Bing. It has less flesh around the pit and the flesh is more firm. I thought they tasted very good. For being a sweet cherry that makes it in zone 5 and is self-fertile it's a keeper for me.

I also have a Kristen which froze down to just above the graft two years ago. It came back in force last summer but it has not produced yet form me. I'm not yet sure if it's a keeper.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 1:04AM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Mamuang, losing them all is a bad cracking year. I only have had that happen once.

One important thing if anyone is planning multiple cherries is to spread the ripening apart, cracking only happens close to ripening and so if your early cherry cracks your late one still may be crack-free.

I had a Balaton and my view is it is a cooking cherry. I took it out since I like the taste of Montmorency more. One advantage the newer sour cherries have is they are sweeter than Monty, but I just love the Monty taste, its something special.


    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 8:19AM
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bob_z6(6b/7a SW CT)

The OP asked about the ornamental aspects, so here is a pic of Balaton flowers. They're bigger than the some of my other cherry flowers, but I'm not sure how they compare to BlackGold. Northstar and Carmine Jewel are both blooming now and are smaller (CJ is in the background on the bottom right). It's the first year for all 3 of them, so I don't yet know how they compare.

This post was edited by bob_z6 on Wed, May 1, 13 at 10:04

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 10:03AM
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I agreed with Scott. My two trees are ripening too close to each other.

If I were you and could only plant one, I'd go for White Gold. By all accounts, it's very similar to Black Gold with less trouble with birds.

I planted Danube. I don't know what it tastes likes but it's supposed to be one of the sweetest sour cherry (if that makes sense). It blooms this year (2nd year). I may have a chance to taste them (if I could protect them from birds)

Sour cherry seems to have fewer problems than sweet cherry. If you can only plant one cherry, you may want to consider a sour cherry.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 6:16PM
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As an ornamental Black gold is hard to beat. Mine is 7 ft tall on a semi dwarf root stock. Haven't had much as far as quantity of fruit yet, but so far I'm impressed with this variety. As I look out today it is starting to bloom and today it is frosted up pretty good. Supposed to be resistant to late frosts, As this is the last frost day supposedly ill let you know. Vigorous grower. First year it grew 3 feet with multiple side branches in the 1 inch range.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 10:30PM
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What a great load of replies. Thanks everyone. It seems like both are good options, although I heard louder praise for Blackgold and Whitegold and will definitely consider both. In the meantime, I've diagnosed what I'm pretty sure is a bad case of peach tree borer on a nearby young peach tree, so I think I'm postponing planting the cherry until I have that under control. Any thoughts on that would be welcome, too!

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 10:39AM
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I can confirm that the blooms on the Black Gold are frost resistant. Had 2 frost days in a row at 27-28 degrees and the tree so far shows no ill effects on the blooms. Last of the frost for the year as we are supposed to be 70+ degrees all this week.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 12:58PM
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I'm in my fourth year with Balaton. To my taste, as sour cherries go for eating, it's pretty close to sweet cherries WHEN FULLY RIPE. I planted it out of curiosity and because it was supposedly much later and more frost resistant than sweets. Ironically, a late frost this year hit it harder than my earlier blooming sweet cherries- caught it right as the blossoms were dropping. I'd go with the Black Gold.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2013 at 12:54AM
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