Care For Serviceberry Trees: Growing Autumn Brilliance Serviceberries

Care For Serviceberry Trees: Growing Autumn Brilliance Serviceberries

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By: Amy Grant

Looking for a small tree/shrub with brilliant fall color to liven up the landscape this autumn? Consider the aptly named serviceberry, ‘Autumn Brilliance,’ which sports gorgeous orange/red fall color and is disease resistant. Read on to find out how to grow an Autumn Brilliance serviceberry and information on general care for serviceberry trees.

About Autumn Brilliance Serviceberries

‘Autumn Brilliance’ serviceberries (Amelanchier x grandflora) are a cross between A. canadensis and A. laevis. Its genus name stems from the French provincial name for Amelanchier ovalis, a European plant in this genus and, of course, its cultivar name is reminiscent of its brilliant orange/red fall hues. It is hardy in USDA zones 4-9.

The serviceberry ‘Autumn Brilliance’ has an upright, highly branching form that grows from between 15-25 feet (4-8 m.) in height. This particular cultivar tends to sucker less than others, tolerates drought and is adapted to a variety of soil types.

While it is named for its notable fall color, Autumn Brilliance is just as spectacular in the spring with its display of large white flowers. These flowers are followed by small edible fruit that taste much like blueberries. The berries can be made into preserves and pies or left on the tree for the birds to devour. Leaves emerge tinged purple, mature to dark green from late spring through the summer, and then go out in a blaze of glory come fall.

How to Grow an Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry

Autumn Brilliance serviceberries can be found growing in shrub borders or along residential street planting strips. These serviceberries also make a lovely understory tree/shrub or for growing along woodland margins.

Plant this serviceberry in full sun to part shade in average soil that is well-draining. Autumn Brilliance prefers moist, well-draining loam soil but will tolerate most other types of soil.

Care for serviceberry trees, once established, is minimal. This variety requires little to no care, as it is drought tolerant and disease resistant. Although this variety does not sucker as much as other serviceberries, it still will sucker. Remove any suckers if you prefer a tree rather than a shrubby growth habit.

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Read more about Serviceberries

How to Plant and Grow Serviceberry Trees

The serviceberry or Juneberry is a small bush-like tree that is grown for its ornamental properties, and its sweet fruit which attracts birds and pollinating insects into a garden. The purple or black fruits can be made into tasty preserves, although it is hard for the gardener to reach them before they are picked clean by wildlife. Planting and growing the Serviceberry is relatively easy, as the most that it will demand is regular watering and a good supply of mulch. The tree lasts for many years, and encourages insects into the garden, helping pollinate fruits and difficult flowers. During the summer, it is an attractive addition to any garden.

Planting Serviceberry Trees

Serviceberries prefer the full sun, although they can adapt to living in areas with a partial shade choose an area that is protected from winds and other severe climates. Choose a soil that is moist and well-drained.

Serviceberry trees can be bought from local garden centers they will either be potted in containers or wrapped in polyester bags. If the tree is potted, lay it on the soil and roll from side to side to loosen it. Once the pot is loose, the serviceberry tree can be gently eased from the pot. If they are wrapped in a bag, use scissors or shears to remove wire or twine from around the plant, and cut away the plastic-use secateurs to trim away dead or over-large roots.

Make a hole in the soil which is about 5 times as wide as the root ball. Don’t worry about the plant becoming invasive, as serviceberry trees can be grown near to buildings without problems. Put in a large amount of water, and wait for the soil and root to fully absorb this liquid. Fill the hole until it is almost at the original level of the ground, and then add mulch or compost to the base. Water the ground and tree again, creating a water pool at the base of the tree.

Growing the Serviceberry tree

The serviceberry can grow up to 40 feet in height, with a width of about half that if you desire the tree to have a single trunk, prune other stems vigorously, and encourage the trunk with careful cutting of branches. If the serviceberry is being used for hedging, then multiple trunks can be encouraged by trimming back the strongest trunk during the winter.

The serviceberry plant should be kept watered regularly, up until Halloween although it likes a very moist soil, be careful not to overwater – if there is a severe flood, for example, leave the tree until conditions improve, checking regularly that the base of the tree does not dry out. It is preferable to keep a 2-inch deep area of mulch and damp ground around the base of the serviceberry. For the first few years after planting, fertilize and mulch the tree during November even after a decade, occasional fertilizing and mulching will do the serviceberry tree a lot of good.

Podcast Transcript

This native tree got one of its common names in an odd way. Legend has it in early colonial times when someone died in winter they had to wait until the ground thawed to dig a grave and have a funeral service. They knew when the ground was thawed enough to dig when this tree started flowering in the forest. So they called it the “serviceberry”. We also know it as amelanchier, shadbush or June berry.

Serviceberry is hardy to zone 4, grows in full sun or part shade, in a variety of soil types to 10 to 25 feet tall depending on the species. The wild serviceberry tree is one of the first trees to bloom in early spring, and is often found along the forest edge. It’s a tough, multi-stemmed tree, that can be pruned to a single trunk. It has beautiful white flowers, delicious, small berries birds and people love, and colorful fall foliage.

Serviceberry Types

While the native tree is great, there are some nice varieties as well. ‘Autumn Brilliance’ has beautiful fall foliage and resists fireblight and leaf spot diseases. ‘Prince William’ grows only 10 feet tall and is more tolerant of wet soil conditions. The western serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia) grows 8 to 10 feet tall. Plant breeders in Saskatchewan have been selecting varieties of this type, not for the white flowers or fall foliage color, but for the berries. Called Saskatoons, ‘Smokey’ and Regent’ are two selections with large, blueberry sized berries that have a wild blueberry flavor. These trees sucker freely making a nice hedge and foodscape or edible landscape plant.

Serviceberry Pruning Tips

The serviceberry, also known as the juneberry or shadbush, is a small tree or shrub which is native to the American continent. It is popular as an ornamental garden tree, and as a natural hedgerow tree, protecting animals or ensuring privacy.

The serviceberry is traditionally planted for its ornamental features, which include white flowers in the early spring, and deep purple berries in the late spring and early summer. These fruits are very popular with birds and other wildlife, and they can encourage pollinating insects into the garden, which can help propagate more difficult plants. Serviceberry trees also provide an attractive autumn foliage, with colours ranging from purple to yellow.

Pruning the Serviceberry

The way in which the gardener prunes the serviceberry will depend very much upon what he desires from the tree. The serviceberry is naturally multi-stemmed, but it can be "trained" to have a single trunk through heavy pruning of suckers. The serviceberry is more likely to produce suckers on the trunk and roots than it is to grow upwards, so a gardener wanting height from this serviceberry should consider pruning the tree every few weeks.

Alternatively, the serviceberry is regularly used as a hedgerow tree, and this offers it the perfect opportunity to grow its suckers and become a "clump" bush. In this instance, the tree should be pruned at the top, keeping the serviceberry low and squat, and allowing the suckers to flourish—although prudent gardeners may feel the need to rein in the shoots from time to time.

Serviceberries can also be trained as hedges in formal gardens, which usually requires constant pruning and shaping—however they are rewarding box hedge plants, with impressive fall showing, and can be trained easily with regular pruning.

General Pruning Tips

Serviceberries flourish early in the spring, so it is important to prune the main trunk of the tree early in order to prevent damage. Prune serviceberries in winter, to avoid cutting new growth, and at this time also remove any wood which is older than four years, which helps give the tree a good shape, and encourages it to put forward new buds and flowers.

Serviceberry trees can be pruned drastically to create short bushes, but it also grows in small varieties that do not need to be pruned more than once a year.

Prune the serviceberry using either secateurs or pruning saws – even if there is no evidence of infection, it is a good idea to wipe the blades with bleach between cuts, as this ensures that any infection is not spread. Long-handled secateurs can be used on tall serviceberry trees.

Pruning is also an excellent opportunity for checking the tree for pests and diseases. As a relative of the rose, the Serviceberry is prone to "rust" and cankers. It can also be attacked by a variety of nasty insects such as the pear sawfly and the spider mite. These can be eliminated with soapy water sprays, horticultural oil, or by encouraging natural predators into the garden.

Watch the video: Pruning Trees in Late Winter - The Serviceberry


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