For a bird garden, plant serviceberry, serviceberry and more serviceberry. Then if you find some space, plant another serviceberry.
Over the years I have planted a considerable number of trees and shrubs for birds. Some worked, some were later ripped out as a waste of space. Serviceberry is not one I culled. In fact I would place it in my top Five Most Successful Bird Plants list. When I moved to my new home, two serviceberry went in before I had unpacked.
Serviceberry Amelanchier is a small native tree or shrub known by many names. Saskatoon, Juneberry, Shadblow, Shadbush, Shad, Sarvis tree, or Servicetree are a few. There are several species in the genus, a few are:
Amelanchier arborea – Downy serviceberry
Amelanchier alnifolia – Western serviceberry
Amelanchier bartramiana – Mountain serviceberry
Amelanchier canadensis – Eastern serviceberry
Amelanchier laevis – Allegheny serviceberry
Amelanchier. x grandiflora, often a A. canadensis and A. laevis hybrid
As an ornamental landscape tree serviceberry is a great native alternative to Bradford (Callery) pear or sterile, non-fruiting Japanese cherry. It is an easy to grow, attractive plant which can be a valuable addition to a landscape design and wildlife garden at the same time. Use it in a tailored landscape as an accent tree or plant in an informal area. In spring it serviceberry covered with small, white flowers that carry a light fragrance….which beats the crud out of the fanny smell of Bradford pear. Later a large limb will break off a pear for no reason and crush something important just to add insult to the previous olfactory injury….but I digress. Back to serviceberry.
Summer brings finely-toothed, medium size oval leaves in a deep green color (Amelanchier. x grandiflora). The dark green color combined with overall rounded, graceful shape of the tree can be used to create a beautiful contrast with lighter leaved shrub Callicarpa americana, under planted with native ninebark cultivars in wine colors or surrounded by tall, colorful perennials.
And then come the berries which range from pink to blue to blue black. The fruit is edible to humans and grown as a food crop but in a backyard, good luck getting them before the birds clean you out. Serviceberries are a favorite and the birds will eat them as soon as the ripen. Robins, catbirds and cedar waxwings are a few that will demolish the crop in no time so there is no mess from falling berries.
Fall color on Serviceberry is showstopping, particularly with the more dependable cultivars such as ‘Autumn Brilliance’, ‘Regents’ and ‘Princess Diana’. During the autumn months, serviceberry shines as an ornamental tree. Color is usually yellow to red and LOUD. The above photo is from ‘Autumn Brilliance’. Let me just rave about the color on ‘Autumn Brilliance’. It rocks. In Georgia we aren’t known for the palette of more northern zones so this plant is a gem for me.
Amelanchier can range from 15′ – 40′ in height and are a fairly easy tree to grow. They will do well in full sun but are shade tolerant as well. Water requirements are medium, as with most trees, water well when young and it will develop deeper roots, allowing for a higher level of drought tolerance as it matures. On it’s own, serviceberry will develop a deep, spreading root system unlike a shallow rooted Bradford which will come up through a lawn. Serviceberry prefers well drained, acid soils but are tolerant of many conditions.
Pollination is a bit confusing. I have read in many places that the flowers attract bees and butteries, but honestly I am not so sure about that. To the best of my knowledge serviceberry is midge pollinated which has been my personal experience. I have also read that they are self pollinating, and at the same time heard that two species are required for pollination. Anyone please feel free to step in and offer an opinion.
For me serviceberry has proven to be fairly disease free. They are known to be prone to leaf spot and cedar apple rust however I have not had this issue with the exception of some minor damage in fall. It wasn’t noticeable through the BRIGHT color unless you were looking. The one problem I have had with this plant is that if you wish to tree form it, during the first few seasons you really need to convince it to become a tree and stay on the new growth at the base. Some serviceberry will want to form a thicket and send up suckers, so if you prefer a tree, look into which one to plant prior to purchasing.
Serviceberry Amelanchier should not be difficult to find within the nursery trade with ‘Autumn Brilliance’ and ‘Princess Diana’ being the most readily available. If I had to choose between the two, I would take both. Probably two of each if I can find space between my viburnums. If you want to have a bird garden, plant serviceberry, serviceberry and more serviceberry. And get rid of that foul smelling Bradford pear.
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