The species described here are Amelanchier lamarckii (apple serviceberry) and A. Alnifolia (Saskatoon, Juneberry or western serviceberry; this is the main species from which fruiting cultivars are derived). Other commonly used species include: A. arborea (Downy serviceberry), A. asiatica (Asian serviceberry), A. canadensis (Shadberry) and A. laevis (Allegheny serviceberry).
Prized for their flowers and foliage colour as much as their fruit, dozens of species of Amelanchier are cultivated mostly as garden ornamental plants in North America and to a lesser degree in Europe.
Juneberry species occur throughout North America, Europe and Asia, so the plants have a pretty wide range and are adapted to most habitats.
Other common names include: Juneberry, serviceberry, sarvis or sarvistree, shadbush, swamp sugar pear, currant tree, snowy mespilus, indian pear, Saskatoon berry, Canadian medlar and in Germany the rock pear.
These are fantastic fruiting plants producing some of the most delicious berries I have ever had the pleasure to eat – truly outstanding!
Now, I first tried Juneberries in a park in Essen, Germany on a visit to my in-laws, with my wife and children. I had read extensively about this member of the Rosaceae family, but had always managed to find only plants which had already been stripped clean of fruit by the birds (they really like these berries too), until that wonderful July day. By chance I noticed that the trees in the park were Juneberries and that they were laden with fruits – so, my wife, daughters and I much to the amusement and bemusement of several dog walkers proceeded to gorge ourselves on our lucky harvest. We even returned to my in-laws for containers so that we could take a fair proportion of these delectable fruits away with us.
One of my particular favourites in this family is the apple serviceberry (Amelanchier lamarckii), a tree Juneberry growing to somewhere in the region 6m by 4m.
This beautiful plant is also known as Snowy Mesipilus. In April the plants explode into a profusion of white blossoms and make a welcome additional burst of colour and life in the spring garden. The flowers of the Juneberry when examined up close are perhaps more understated than those of crab apples and other early spring blossoms, but when viewed on mass from afar they are truly magnificent trees. These pretty flowers are then followed by their delicious fruits from very late June through July (I know they are called “June” berries, but the fruits are rarely ripe in the UK until July).
As autumnal winds begin to blow through the garden, these fantastic trees just keep on giving as they put on a dazzling display of red, orange and yellow as their leaves bow to the steady march of the seasons. Amelanchiers’ fiery hued leaves stay on the branches to quite late in the season, but once they have all finally fallen we can sit back and admire the plants attractive stripped, grey bark.
On top of all of this, apple serviceberry plants are self-fertile, they are not fussy about soil and can be grown in heavy clay. The plants prefer slightly acid and neutral soil and they can grow in semi-shade, they do however, require moist, but not wet, soil.
The fruit, which is up to 10mm in diameter, is sweet and succulent with a subtle taste of apples and a hint of almonds from the seeds. My family and I love to eat these straight from the tree, but they can also be dried for later use or made into a superb jam.
The fruit is apparently rich in iron and copper.
Another great species is the Saskatoon, more of a shrubby plant (growing 2m to 3m tall) than the apple serviceberry, but equally delicious. Its berries are sweet and good to eat. Some people consider saskatoons to be a blueberry substitute for those whose gardens do not have acid soil. This species is grown commercially on pick-your-own farms in parts of North America and Canada.
Both of these species exhibit good drought tolerance, much higher than for most other small berry fruits.
Propagation: Seedlings are most commonly grown. Clones are produced from suckers, root cuttings, or softwood cuttings.
Rootstocks: Usually not used; seedlings are grown on own roots.
NATURE is amazing, Mother Earth provides us with an incredible bounty of delicious and delectable taste sensations through the various fruits growing around us; but I do not believe that our enjoyment should end there these plants should also give us food for the soul.
Through this blog, using my years of knowledge gleaned from growing fruiting plants, which have not been highly bred and cultivated – to all intents and purposes they can be considered “wild”. Coupled with my expertise in eco-forest gardening; the practice of creating a self-sustaining ecosystem whereby the plant feed both the fauna (including us) and themselves; I aim to give the reader a truly holistic experience one which takes in taste, sight, the body and the mind.
Now, despite nature providing us with such an amazing wealth of variety how many of you have ever tried such delights as Juneberries, Nanking cherries and Salal?
Life is too short to restrict ourselves to the frankly sorry selection of fruits available in the supermarkets and most greengrocers.
So, why not join me and embrace the truly fantastic flavours available out there in nature by turning your humble garden into a productive and stunning edible landscape.
I see it as my mission is to try and get people to think outside of the common-place and succumb to the tastes of some truly different, but wonderful fruits.
But, before we look at what you can grow in your garden and how these fruiting plants can be used to produce both stunning visual interest and a self-sustaining garden environment, I want to digress slightly and talk about the common fruits we all see on the supermarket shelves.
Commercial fruit is specially selected and bred to produce plants which bear heavily and produce uniformly shaped and sized fruits. They are also selected to survive transport and long periods of storage before reaching the supermarket.
These fruits are produced to appeal to a broad spectrum of people, everyone from little old ladies in Cornwall to toddlers in northern Scotland. As such the flavours are usually fairly unchallenging so as not to over-excite any one person too much.
Oh yes, and as part of the process of getting these fruits to keep for a long time they are usually picked under-ripe - hardly something which is going to help an already slightly bland tasting fruit.
Finally, just to make your life just that little bit more "interesting" most supermarket and greengrocer bound fruits are doused in a wonderful cocktail of chemicals whilst they are growing and often treated after picking to keep them from going mouldy too soon – yum, delicious!
Now, contrast the fruits you can buy with those you can grow yourself in your garden. Here you can grow the kinds and varieties which you actually enjoy eating, things which get your taste buds tingling and maybe even there is a little bit of dribbling on your part at the thought of eating them (or is that just me?).
When have you seen such joys in the supermarket as goumi berries, Chilean guava or salmonberries? Better still you get to enjoy the fruits of your garden at the peak of perfection. You know that you do not have to wash these fruits you have picked before eating them, because you have not sprayed them or treated them to stop them decaying during transit.
The media has highlighted the impact on the environment of importing fruits from around the world to stock are supermarket and greengrocers shelves, and we are encouraged to eat more locally grown food. I ask you what could be more local than fruit grown in your own back garden, especially if you are using organic and eco-forest gardening principles.
Through this book I hope to guide you as to how to grow your own delicious harvest, which as well as providing a wealth of healthy, edible fruits will also create a stunning visual impact in your existing garden. And for those of your wanting to take the self-sustaining life that little bit further I will try and give you an insight into how to use these plants in creating your own eco-forest garden.
As I have already said, life in my opinion is too short to bother growing bland, uninteresting fruits that do not really get you salivating at the thought of eating them. I hope to inspire you to grow something extraordinary, something so delicious that you cannot understand why you wasted your time growing “ordinary” fruits.
Now, like most of you I started out, about a decade ago, growing the common place - apples, plums, gooseberries and currants. But, I always felt just a little unfulfilled. Surely I asked myself there must be something tastier out there - something with a bit more “oomph” behind it.
So, I headed off to my local library and got out several books including some by the well known gardener and author Bob Flowerdew, along with Ken Fern’s marvellous Plants for a Future, which helped pave the way to understanding that there is a whole world of taste experiences out there just waiting to be discovered.
After devouring these books I then had a trawl through the internet and found even more information about edible fruit plants which are grown and consumed throughout the world. Good sources of information came from the Plants for a Future website and the numerous Agroforestry websites.
Next I set out a list of what I wanted to grow based on what I had read and been able to taste either through foraging or a bit of “scrumping” from other people’s gardens. Three things made it straight on to the list from the very start they were the Juneberry, Chilean guavas and hardy kiwis.
All of these fantastic fruits you will never find in the supermarket (okay, you can find occasional punnets of hardy kiwis at the supermarket, but they really are sad, shrivelled affairs), yet for flavour they far outshine most common fruits – I say most as I must admit that I am still very partial to an organic peach or heritage apple.
Here in Britain I think we have forgotten how to enjoy food, to eat well and to savour tastes - for most of us fruit and vegetables come from the supermarket and here sadly most of the flavour has been stripped away and replaced by a long shelf-life and a uniformity in the fruit displayed on the shelf.
I believe we need to live to eat rather than eat to live – something the Germans, French and Italians excel at. By growing flavoursome fruits at home we can achieve this, because you will (I hope) only grow fruit plants which you really relish.
So, what to grow? Choosing what you want to grow is really a choice about what flavours you enjoy eating and how you eat your fruits. Coupled with this is sustainability, beauty, peace and creating a place where you are above all happy and enjoy being.