My contest entry!
The folks at Gardening Gone Wild are having a photo contest and this is my entry, Amelanchier canadensis:
The challenge is to submit a photo of a plant native to your region that you think deserves more attention than it currently gets. Originally they wanted the plants to be water-wise, but that's no longer one of the criteria. I took the above photo last year, first week of May. The tree is one I planted on the ferny verge between our cultivated space and the un-manicured, surrounding woods.
For years I've sung the praises of Amelanchier candensis to anyone who will listen. I use it whenever I can, both in my Pennsylvania landscape and in my business in NYC. It's a low maintenance plant, with four seasons of interest, and anyone looking for a small tree or shrub should consider it. Different species of Amelanchier are native to different parts of the U.S., so there are plenty to choose from depending on where you are. They have many common names: shadblow, serviceberry, and Juneberry being the most common in my neck of the woods.
Some people call it shadblow because the flowers (blow is an archaic word for flower) bloom when the shad run. The name serviceberry comes from colonial times. Flowers bloomed when the snow had melted enough for the preacher to walk to church and perform the first service of the spring. I prefer Juneberry because it conjures neither religion nor fish.
Juneberry requires no supplemental water once established (making it, nudge-nudge, water-wise!), is relatively deer resistant, and tolerates a range of growing conditions: mostly sun to mostly shade, rocky soils, rooftop containers. There are few trees that offer so much and demand so little.
The plump, unopened buds are held widely spaced, like a candelabra. They're white, edged in pink and just this week I've been struck by their beauty. Sadly, my attempts to photograph them have thus far been thwarted by high winds. Small, white flowers follow, often before its leaves emerge and before neighboring trees have started new growth, they flash white as you drive past and in the spring garden, they’re a bright focal point.
In early summer, clusters of berries attract birds to the garden. Juneberries are slightly bigger than blueberries; they start out red, and ripen to a deep, purply-blue.
In fall, the foliage is bright yellow, turning orange, and it’s one of the first trees to drop its leaves, revealing what some consider its best attribute: beautiful bark. In fact some people prune off the bottom branches of the tree to show off its slim trunks, subtly marked with vertical, silvery stripes. They look lovely against the snow.
Even among those who appreciate the beauty of the Juneberry, few appreciate the taste of its fruit. Juneberries are delicious and firm, tasting something like a cross between blueberries and strawberries. Its seeds are small and plentiful, unobtrusive to chew, and adding an almond flavor. They don’t all ripen at once, so you can harvest juneberries for about four weeks. A single tree produces a prodigious harvest.
The berries are delicious eaten out of hand, and they freeze well. I’ve dried Juneberries for cereal and salads, made Juneberry-peach compote (below), Juneberry sorbet, and Juneberry-rhubarb jam. This year I've got a tart recipe to try out.
Seriously, what more could you ask for in a woody plant: striking flowers, tasty fruit, colorful foliage, ornamental bark, and so very easy to grow. What's stopping you?