Can you smell it? It’s almost spring. Soon our gardens, whether in Connecticut, Colorado or somewhere in between, will be bursting into life.
The problem with many gardens I see as a landscape designer is that they are full of spring ‘one-hit wonders’. You know them, they look great for a few days or, if you’re luck, a few weeks, but then the show’s over.
These one-hit wonders (in my mind, the biggest one-hit wonder in many Connecticut gardens is the weeping higan cherry) don’t offer another season of interest and are taking up valuable garden space that could be home to a tree that offers several seasons of interest and is wildlife-friendly.
Instead…You Can Grow That!
One of my favorite native trees for Connecticut gardens is Amelanchier, also known as Juneberry, serviceberry, downy serviceberry, shadbush and apple serviceberry to name just a few of its common names.
Amelanchier is a genus composed of more than a dozen different species of small deciduous trees. For Connecticut gardeners, we have several native species that make excellent additions to our gardens — A. arborea, A. canandensis and A. laevis. To muddy the waters even more, the most readily available and easily found Amelanchier , A. x grandiflora, is actually a hybrid between A. arborea and A. laevis.
Enough with the botany lesson…regardless of where you garden and which species of Amelanchier you eventually plant, here are a few basics you should keep in mind:
♦ Serviceberry is hardy in zones 4 – 8 and is ideal for a woodland or naturalized garden setting.
♦ It grows in full sun to partial shade and tolerates a variety of soil and moisture conditions. In the wild, it is often seen growing in wet, boggy areas but in a garden setting it is quite drought-tolerant once established.
♦ Depending on the species, a mature Amelanchier can be anywhere from 15′ – 30′ tall. And you can find them as single-trunk trees or multi-stemmed specimens that behave more like large shrubs. Decide which one will work best in your garden and buy accordingly.
♦ If you’re looking for spectacular fall color, plant A. x grandiflora ‘Autumn Brilliance’. It quickly grows into a 20′ tall specimen.
The Birds & The Bees
♦ Amelanchier is one of the first trees to flower in the spring so it is an important source of nectar for early pollinators.
♦ Research has shown that dozens of different kinds of wildlife feed on serviceberries.
♦ Songbirds find it’s summer berries irresistible.
♦ The berries are edible and reportedly make delicious jams, jellies and even berry cobbler, if you can get to them before the birds do. Here in Connecticut, robins, northern catbirds, wood thrushes and scarlet tanagers all feed on Serviceberries.
♦ Amelanchier is not considered deer-resistant. If deer are an issue in your garden you may need to protect young trees until their canopy is out of deer-browsing range.
If planting a small tree is on your gardening to-do list this spring, check out Amelanchier and see if its right for your garden. And leave those one-hit wonders where they belong…in your neighbor’s garden.
Note: I’d like to thank C. L. Fornari of Whole Life Gardening for cultivating and starting You Can Grow That for garden bloggers all over the world. You Can Grow That will be featured on the fourth of every month. Check out the other You Can Grow that posts on the official You Can Grow That Facebook page.