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Everyday Gardeners

Serviceberry a Big Hit in Any Season

serviceberryLast week I gave a talk on “Trees in the Landscape” at the Des Moines Botanical Center, where I presented images of majestic oaks, maples and spruces. Not surprisingly, the trees that hit the audience’s hot button were smaller species. After all, most people have limited space to grow trees, so they’re interested in space savers.

They also like multi-season interest, which is why I was happy to tell them about serviceberry (Amelanchier spp.). What’s not to like? Pretty flowers in spring, edible berries in summer, spectacular foliage in fall, and handsome habit in winter.

Serviceberry takes full sun or part shade, making it suitable for everything from a specimen to a perimeter plant on the outskirts of a shrub border. It likes moist (but not water-logged), acidic soil and grows in a wide range of climates. Some species grow in Zones 3-7, others like warmer temperatures in Zones 5-9.

serviceberry2By the way, as the son of a funeral director, I have to point out where the common name comes from. In the old days, many rural cemeteries had to wait till the ground thawed for burials. Graveside services often coincided with either the blooming (May) or berry production (June) of the serviceberry, hence the name. Another common name, Juneberry, relates to the timing of fruit production.

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Everyday Gardeners

A Tree (Still) Grows in Kewanee

Congratulations to the Kewanee (IL) City Council for doing the right thing.

Rather than cutting down a 180-year-old Osage-orange tree along a city street, the council voted to spare the tree until arborists could devise a plan to save the tree while safeguarding the public right-away.

Here is the Osage-orange tree during pruning.

Here is the Osage-orange tree during pruning.

The historical tree, a last vestige of a farm hedgerow planted before the Civil War, was slated to come down Nov. 24. Instead, it was pruned of several overhanging branches. Here are photos of the tree after last week’s pruning, courtesy of Jason Knowles, consulting forester with Knowles Municipal Forestry, LLC.

Overhanging branches have been removed. Osage-orange is a strong tree with interweaving fibers, so a longtime lean such as this is not always a problem. Volunteer arborists will soon examine the tree for structural integrity.

Overhanging branches have been removed. Osage-orange is a strong tree with interweaving fibers, so a longtime lean such as this is not always a problem. Volunteer arborists will soon examine the tree for structural integrity.

Volunteer arborists will study the tree for structural integrity (Osage-orange is renowned for strength and this example has been leaning for years without noticeable deterioration). If the tree can be saved, there may be a fundraising drive so the city of Kewanee does not pay a monetary penalty for its decision to save the tree. I’ll keep you posted!

The size of the tree is impressive.

The size of the tree is impressive.

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