Here in the Northwest, the serviceberry bushes, (Amelanchier canadensis), along the Interstate are the first to show their color in the spring. And what a display they can be – they are often completely covered with a cloud of white blossoms that give way to edible fruit in the early summer.
The Serviceberry is also known as the Juneberry, shadbush, sarviceberry, and saskatoon.
In addition to giving you a crop of edible berries, these trees also make a very attractive screening plant. If you’re looking for a plant that will give you privacy in the summer, brilliant fall color, and early spring blossoms, you might want to plant a cultivar that will sucker, so they will quickly fill in and create a tall informal hedge. You can always leave the berries to the birds, if you want.
The Serviceberry can be found wild in every state in the continental United States, and they grow from southern Alaska to eastern Alberta. They are hardy in zones 3 to 7, with some cultivars being hardy down to USDA zone 1. Wild plants are an important food source for birds, deer, moose and other animals, and were once used extensively by Native Americans. When your Serviceberry fruit ripens, you’ll want to pick them quickly, because birds will find your bush and easily eat all the berries before you get to them.
Check Out: Tree Pruning Tips
There are many different species of Amelanchier. Some members of the genus grow close to the ground, while others can soar to fifty feet tall. While some will spread from shoots that grow from horizontal roots, others do not. Your local nursery should be able to tell you if the cultivar you buy will stay where it’s planted, or naturalize into a stand of small trees. Depending on the variety, the leaves will change color in the fall to purple, orange or yellow, and can put on an impressive show. During the winter, you’ll see the attractive gray bark.
You can grow this hardy plant in sun or part shade, and many varieties are drought resistant. All are cold hardy. Some experts suggest that Serviceberries will do best if planted in fall instead of spring. This gives their roots plenty of time to get established before the tops break dormancy in the spring. Prune your bushes in the winter to remove all wood older than four years. You can also prune the bushes to stay short enough so you can pick the small fruits without a ladder. If your variety grows as a small tree, you don’t need to prune every year. These trees are related to roses, so they can develop rust and other plant diseases common to this family.