Cherry trees present a particular challenge because when grown on their own roots they are potentially the largest of all fruit trees, certainly much larger than wild apple trees. Until relatively recently there was not much that gardeners or commercial growers could do when growing cherries but accept that the trees would be large, would take up a lot of space, and most of the cherries would be so high up that the birds would get there first. Fortunately recent research programmes have resulted in new rootstocks that produce smaller more manageable trees - useful for commercial growers and ideal for gardeners.
Gisela 5 (G5)
Gisela 5 is rapidly becoming the rootstock of choice for gardeners who want a cherry tree with manageable proportions. It produces a tree about 3m / 10ft tall after 5 years or so (roughly equivalent to the apple M26 rootstock).
Cherry trees on Gisela 5 cannot support themselves so you will need a 2m permanent stake or other means of support. Training against a wall or trellis works well with Gisela 5 (and also means you can more easily cover the tree in early summer to keep the birds away). It is important to provide good growing conditions, including regular feeding and watering, and to keep the area around the tree free from competing weeds or grass. However these are minor inconveniences compared to the attraction of being able to pick your own fresh cherries, and if you can provide the necessary growing conditions then cherry trees on Gisela 5 are reliable croppers.
Gisela 6 (G6)
Gisela 6 produces a slightly larger tree than Gisela 5, roughly equivalent to the apple MM106 rootstock. The main advantage over Gisela 5 is that it is much less fussy about soil conditions.
This is the best rootstock for growing cherry trees in large gardens and community orchards. It produces a tree with a height of 3.5m - 5m, and tolerates poorer soils than Gisela 5 and needs less looking after. It's also useful for large cherry fans. Colt is roughly comparable to the apple MM111 rootstock.
This is a traditional cherry rootstock and produces a very large standard cherry tree, with a mature height of 6m. It is perfect for traditional orchards, although it is quite slow-growing and the large trees might be difficult to harvest from - unless your objective is feeding the local birds.