Monday, October 26, 2009

Amelanchier, a Shrub for All Seasons

Amelanchier is a carefree, deciduous understory shrub or small tree, commonly known as Serviceberry, Juneberry, or sometimes Shadbush. Up to 30 feet at maturity, they're attractive year 'round - even winter, with their graceful form and smooth gray, or sometimes dark brown bark.

Fall color ranges from bright yellow or gold, to orange, rust, or violet-red. They tolerate a range of conditions from sun to shade, and dry to moist soil, from sandy to rich and loamy to heavy clay; either neutral or acid.

The fruits are sweet and tasty, often used in jams and pies. Their flavor is a mix of blueberry and cherry, with a hint of almond. They're loved by birds and other wildlife, disappearing quickly as they ripen.

Native throughout most of the United States, Amelanchier has several cultivars as well. Generally hardy in zones 4-7, some are happy in zone 2, and others to zone 9.

The delicate, hermaphrodite white, or occasionally pink blossoms are pollinated by bees. The serviceberry is a favorite shrub in our garden. Ours has been here since long before either Lawn Man or I. It's beautiful blooming in late April and early May,

Lovely in June with its delicious, ornamental berries,

And just as pretty in autumn.

23 comments:

  1. These are such amazing trees/shrubs. I just planted an allee of them. Looking forward to seeing them in all seasons.

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  2. Hello Linda girl !
    We planted "Autumn Brilliance" this Spring and even though it is still a 'baby" right now it is a beauty : ) I can't wait for it to mature and we see more of its character .. plus if we can actually get some berries before the "Robinator" eats them all like he did last time ?? LOL

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  3. Deborah, I think you'll love them, and so will the birds and bees.

    Hey there Joy! Oooh, 'Autumn Brilliance' has such pretty fall color.

    Good luck harvesting some berries. Fortunately they mature over a fairly long period. I nibble on them now and then, usually when they're not yet fully ripe. I actually like the flavor of them more when they're bright red than purple. I like the slight tartness and fuller flavor of them then. That's the best time to get them I think, as once they turn purple the birds gobble them up. For my tastes, once they turn purple they're less flavorful and a little too sweet.

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  4. Of all the shrubs I have, Amelanchier is not one of them. (I think I'll claim I'm out of room!) I friend of mine has one, though, and it is indeed cool. I was surprised to learn, in Saskatoon in 2005, that what they call Saskatoon berry is an Amelanchier. The tea isn't bad, either!

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  5. AHA! You have just solved a mystery for me. I found such a blooming shrub in the woods near some old homestead ruins. The flowers were none I recognized. Now I absolutely MUST have one.

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  6. Hi Monica, Oh, yes, I'd forgotten Saskatoon is another common name for them - thank you!

    Hmmm. . . I've never tried the tea - another great reason to grow this fantastic shrub. A quick google search revealed that Native Americans made tea from the leaves as a digestive aid, and bathed children plagued by parasites in serviceberry tea.

    Thanks for visiting Nicki - glad I helped solve the mystery! They are such beautiful shrubs, I'm confident you'd love it.

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  7. A very hardy tree for the Midwest, Linda. We sell lots of them at the garden center.

    I was up in the northern woods of Wisconsin where they grow wild and the children in the area were told by their parents that the berries were poison, probably because they're red. You should've seen their faces when I plucked the berries and ate them. The parents didn't even know that the berries could be eaten and used in pies.

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  8. Carolyn, I'm not surprised they're popular with your customers - they're wonderful. I'm seeing more and more of them being added to landscapes in the last couple of years.

    I didn't know much about them when I first moved here - had to do some research to ID ours. I was leery of the berries until I learned what they are. Hopefully the children in the area you visited are now able to enjoy these yummy berries thanks to your knowledge!

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  9. This is such a wonderful shrub to have! For me, the tree in the last picture is the prettiest. Love those dark barks with contrasting yellow leaves.

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  10. Such lovely trees/shrubs We have a couple in our garden and they continually give pleasure.

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  11. Hi Linda, it is a great bush the Amelanchier with lovely flowers and autumn colour and hardy too. I've totally forgotten just how good it is, thank you for reminding me. Tyra

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  12. I am a big fan of Amelanchier too! It's on the short list of shrubs for a challenging spot in my back yard, but I'm afraid the location is too small and the poor thing would suffer.

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  13. Hi Stephanie, I agree! I'm not sure I would have thought of them, so I'm really glad this one was already here.

    Hi Joanne, Yay for serviceberries!

    My pleasure Tyra!

    Rose, they can get pretty wide and tall, but I've also seen some that are kept smaller with pruning. I hasten to add that I'm a proponent of shrubs that fit their site without the need for constant pruning. We have a lot of high-maintenance hedge and foundation shrubs, so I especially like that the serviceberry has room to grow naturally and needs little care.

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  14. One of my favorite little trees! It's a luscious golden right now! I've yet to taste a berry, but I have hopes that one of these years I will! I like your shrub philosophy! gail

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  15. Linda, I have heard lots of great things about this bush, Your photos are wonderful in showing just how beautiful they are in all seasons. Another plant for my wish list. And maybe that wish list shold include more area to plant things. :)

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  16. One of my favorites too Gail! The rain we've had the last few days has knocked most of the leaves off, but it's still pretty at the top. I hope you get to try some berries sometime. If you're ever here in mid-to-late June, you can sample them in our garden. :)

    When I was a kid I used to love trimming the hedges. I can't believe I thought it was fun! I do enjoy a nice, neat hedge, but it seems like a lot more work than fun anymore.

    Beckie, I know what you mean - it's a gardener's dilema running out of space before running out of plants on the wish list.

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  17. I just came over from Monica's fallgasmic post to find yours. You two are making me wish I had more space to add some fall foliage in my garden.

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  18. This is indeed a beautiful shrub-- in all seasons. I've never seen or read about Amelanchiers before. Loved seeing the pics! The berries are so pretty too!

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  19. MBT, fallgasmic is a good way to describe Monica's post. She has some really awesome fall foliage! The big downside to all the fall foliage here is . . . it falls! Pretty on the trees and shrubs, here it's a lot of work keeping up with all the leaves. We mulch them, but when the Lawn Man used to bag them, there were easily 20 or more bags of leaves a week for a few weeks.

    Kanak, I love how pretty the berries are! They ripen over a few weeks, and the clusters are multi-colored just like the photo. When fully-ripe they're dark purple like blueberries, and each cluster will have some green ones, some light red, dark red, and purple berries. Once they turn purple the birds gobble them up. Besides being full of berries for weeks, our Amelanchier is full of birds for weeks too!

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  20. Oh Linda, what a beauty! I love that final photo, what a great selling point! We see these in the wild areas around here and have wondered what that pretty white flower, then the berried tree was for years. How lucky to have such a mature specimen already growing in your garden too. :-)
    Frances

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  21. Oh yes I totally agree, Linda ... happy in all seasons, a must for every garden (love those Juneberries)!

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  22. Hi Frances, they sure are lovely shrubs. I like that they're native, and non-invasive. I've yet to see a seedling in our garden, though I wouldn't mind if one chanced to sprout here. Glad I helped you ID them in your area.

    They seem to be a much-loved shrub Joey, and I'm so happy we have one. I'll bet you could whip up a mighty fine dessert with the berries!

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  23. We have an Amalanchier on the north side of the pool house with a wildflower garden below it. It's because of the Amalanchier that the area looks so lovely. It's such a graceful tree. The cats use it to get to the roof the building. :-)

    Love the color in the fall. The cedar waxwings particularly enjoy its berries, I've found.

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