Serviceberry – Garden Superstar

It might seem strange to think of a shrub as a superstar, but the humble serviceberry deserves this status.

Serviceberry (sometimes referred to as Juneberry) is a larger shrub or small tree; in fact you can choose either a clumping shrub or a tree form. It is an amelanchier from the ‘rose’ family and easy to find at local nurseries. Serviceberry is often used in commercial plantings for their neat shape and easy care, but they also produce berries that can be eaten (they taste like blueberries) or made into juice, jam, or pie filling.

Serviceberry is found in Altona Forest but development has encroached and only a few remain. This year, volunteers and community members planted about 12 young serviceberries near the north pond.

By adding a serviceberry to your garden, you are extending Altona Forest’s edge to your home – and increasing the natural food sources for birds and butterflies while adding ‘green infrastructure’ and urban forest to our neighbourhood.

Serviceberry blooms ending as the leaves emerge

Serviceberry blooms ending as the leaves emerge

Here are 5 great reasons to consider planting a serviceberry somewhere in your garden:

  1. It’s easy to grow and requires little to no maintenance. It needs to be watered when newly planted but looks after itself and is drought tolerant once established.
  2. It will grow in shade, sun, and shade-sun areas – it’s very adaptable though it’s most successful in sunny locations. There are 5-6 types of serviceberry so at least one variety can be grown anywhere in Canada.
  3. It’s not a large tree and can fit any size of yard – even small urban patches of green.
  4. It’s an Altona Forest native plant (native to this entire region of North America), which means its flowers, berries and foliage serve native fauna and birds better than any foreign or hybridized plant. Serviceberry was likely common in Altona Forest when it was more of a mixed-forest area.
  5. It feeds early pollinators like bees and butterflies just as they emerge in spring and then in early summer the berries feed local birds (such as robins, catbirds, cedar waxwings, rose-breasted grosbeaks, and Baltimore orioles), and chipmunks.
Cedar Waxwing and serviceberries in 12x12' garden!

Cedar Waxwing enjoying serviceberry treats in 12×12′ front garden!

Serviceberry is a year-round performer and will add beauty and four-season interest to your garden:

Spring: Just when you can’t wait for spring to bloom, the serviceberry will put on a short, dramatic early-spring show of starry, white, five-petaled flowers before other plants’ leaves have unfurled. The halo of white precedes its leaves and is eye-catching in a stark garden. When the petals fall like confetti, they dry and disappear – no yard work.

Summer: All those blossoms create profuse clusters of berries. Watch berries transform from green to orange to red to purple-red… and different shades ripening on the same bunch adding colour and interest to the garden. As the berries ripen, birds like robins and cedar waxwings will visit your garden to feast. Serviceberry’s olive green leaves are small, rounded-oval shaped and attractive.

Fall: Serviceberry puts on a vibrant yellow-orange show as the weather turns colder. If there are any berries left they will attract migrating birds.

Winter: While unlikely there will be any remaining berries, they look lovely against the snow. The spreading branching pattern and attractive grey bark of the serviceberry collects snow beautifully and it retains its graceful shape through the winter.

If you want an easy-care shrub that gives colour to your garden in each season, draws robins, orioles, thrushes, and cedar waxwings, provides nesting opportunities for local species such as song sparrows, robins and cardinals, make serviceberry your garden superstar! You will be supporting the health of Altona Forest’s wildlife while reaping serviceberry’s garden beauty.

Resources ~ Begin your reading here:

Serviceberry – Native types and growing patterns

Landscape Ontario

Amelanchier (Wiki)

Growing Serviceberries

Serviceberry – Garden Superstar ~ © 2015 Natasha G



This entry was posted in Forest-Friendly Practices, Gardening for Biodiversity and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Serviceberry – Garden Superstar

  1. I just looked up that the Saskatoon berry is the yummiest of all service berries. Off I go! Thanks for the post.

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