I am looking to plant 2 or 3 cherry trees and wanted to know which varieties you would recommend. Also, how tall and wide do the trees grow? How far apart should I space them when planting them?
My observation is that most are great if you can leave them on the tree until they are fully ripe. Most are picked too early because of birds or rain.
Also cherry taste can vary quite a bit due to climate, soil, and growing conditions.
Mine are planted at about 2-3ft by 8ft on Gisela 5. But an 8ft by 12ft spacing is better on strong soil. On a dwarfing root they can bear starting the third year, even a few the second.
Here is a link that might be useful: 2011 sweet cherry report
Cherries that do well on the West coast don't necessarily do well in the East. It would help to know where you are located.
I am in Virginia. :-)
I'm in Central California and if you were nearby I wouldn't hesitate to say Bing and Rainier but I don't think they'll work well for you.
You need recommendations specific to your area. There are varying micro-climates within Virginia and different varieties will do better or worse depending on where you are.
Your county should have a local office of Virginia Tech and Virginia State University's Cooperative Extension.
Other good sources of information would be a nearby u-pick or cherry sellers at your local farmers market because they have direct experience in your particular climate.
Don't take a nursery or home center's opinion as gospel unless you talk to someone who actually has trees growing in their back yard.
Sorry I couldn't offer you specific recommendations.
Here is a link that might be useful: Virginia Cooperative Extension offices
Get a catalog from Adam's County Nursery. Their catalog is a lot better than their website IME.
Their experience and information is the best you will find on East coast cherries and most other tree fruit.
Here is a link that might be useful: Adam's County Nursery cherries
VA has a very problematic climate for cherries, unless you grow them under a tent- its hard enough up here in SE NY. Rains any point near ripening and they begin to crack and rot. Most years I need to keep fungicide on them until harvest to even get cracked fruit although sometimes you can be blessed with timely drought. I have to net trees although some get fruit unnetted with pure yellow varieties.
As has been discussed on this forum, new "crack resistant" varieties are only a slight improvement on the crack issue. The AC nursery catalog won't tell you this.
I have not found cherries to be nearly as precocious here as what fruitnut gets in TX, even on geisla root stocks although I don't use most dwarfing one of that series because I want free standing trees. Still best to run with them.
I think some of the best new cultivars are White Gold and Black Gold. They pretty much are about the best for the east. On Gisela 5. The biggest problem is branching, they tend not to branch well on Gisela when young. Not all but some. Proper heading of laterals and even notching can help get them to branch correctly. You'll get ton's of cherries if pruned correctly. Also even though dwarf, they get quite big 12 ft tall at least 8 ft wide. For me that is huge!
Depending how much rain you get you will have to spray a lot. Mine are in a moist area, and I'm always fighting problems with them. But I have managed to get some decent crops. I'm in MI 6a. These trees are good for my area. Raintree or Grandpa's carries them, unless you want a larger tree get Gisela rootstock. It does well in most soils.
Rich soils are best. It's very cold hardy which matters more for me than you. I would also take the other advice and see what others are growing in your area. Your best bet. Both trees I mentioned are self fertile, so you can only have one, but having different cultivars will increase crop. Both trees are pretty good pollinators too for trees that need another cherry to bear fruit. Again local knowledge trumps my advice, you may ask what they think of these in your area.
I also like these trees because the fruit is excellent
Whitegold has heavy crops, cold tolerance, disease and crack resistance, and midseason maturity. Ripens in mid June. Self-pollinating. Blackgold is about the same.
Both are Cornell releases (anything from them is pretty awesome if you ask me).
The posters above are all talking about sweet cherries. Sour cherries do well on the East coast and are superior to sweet cherries for all cooking uses and for making cherry brandy. Montmorency is the classic pie variety and an excellent cherry. If you want a smaller tree, North Star does well and the tree stays about 7-8 tall -- easy to net. Of course, sour cherries are not good for eating out of hand, though I've heard some of the new East European ones are better in that regard.