Happy April Fool’s Day, everyone. However, the above photo is no joke. That’s a close-up of one of our three Apple Serviceberry trees, all of which are just beginning to bloom. Serviceberries are native trees, but the ones we planted are a named cultivar called Amelanchier x grandiflora ‘Cole’s Select.’
Here’s what a typical blooming branch looks like:
Cole’s Select is a cross between A. arborea and A. laevis, and was selected for its larger flowers, thicker, glossy leaves, and its fabulous bright orange-red fall color. I added our trees for the fall color (we don’t have that many trees that turn fiery in fall), and for the fruits.
My references tell me that the fleshy fruits are delicious in pies and jams, but I may never know, because the minute these berry-like fruits ripen, the birds devour them. We always get good fruit set; the bees seem very drawn to the flowers, busily pollinating them from dawn to dusk on warm spring days.
I don’t remember when we planted them, but I’m guessing it was about ten years ago. What were 2-foot-tall saplings are now 15 feet tall and about 10-12 feet wide. The two growing near the creek at the bottom of the hill are blooming. The one in a cold spot higher on the hill is not yet open for business.
Serviceberry got its name from its association with circuit-riding preachers of rural southern areas in the days before paved roads. These clergymen could only travel when wintry wet, muddy roads became passable again, and this usually coincided with the bloom time of the Amelanchiers — hence one of their common names: Serviceberry, because traveling clergy could once again reach outlying communities and hold services.
Amelanchiers have another equally colorful name: Shadbush. Apparently, these trees tend to bloom about the same time as shad (a native fish) make their annual migrations up local creeks and rivers to their breeding grounds.
Whatever name you choose, you will enjoy this native understory tree, especially if you plant it against some evergreens to accentuate its spring flowers and fall color. We have been delighted with our Serviceberry additions. And who knows, maybe someday we’ll even get a chance to taste the fruits.