The serviceberry, also known as the juneberry or shadbush, is a small tree or shrub which is native to the American continent. It is popular as an ornamental garden tree, and as a natural hedgerow tree, protecting animals or ensuring privacy.
The serviceberry is traditionally planted for its ornamental features, which include white flowers in the early spring, and deep purple berries in the late spring and early summer. These fruits are very popular with birds and other wildlife, and they can encourage pollinating insects into the garden, which can help propagate more difficult plants. Serviceberry trees also provide an attractive autumn foliage, with colours ranging from purple to yellow.
Pruning the Serviceberry
The way in which the gardener prunes the serviceberry will depend very much upon what he desires from the tree. The serviceberry is naturally multi-stemmed, but it can be "trained" to have a single trunk through heavy pruning of suckers. The serviceberry is more likely to produce suckers on the trunk and roots than it is to grow upwards, so a gardener wanting height from this serviceberry should consider pruning the tree every few weeks.
Alternatively, the serviceberry is regularly used as a hedgerow tree, and this offers it the perfect opportunity to grow its suckers and become a "clump" bush. In this instance, the tree should be pruned at the top, keeping the serviceberry low and squat, and allowing the suckers to flourish—although prudent gardeners may feel the need to rein in the shoots from time to time.
Serviceberries can also be trained as hedges in formal gardens, which usually requires constant pruning and shaping—however they are rewarding box hedge plants, with impressive fall showing, and can be trained easily with regular pruning.
General Pruning Tips
Serviceberries flourish early in the spring, so it is important to prune the main trunk of the tree early in order to prevent damage. Prune serviceberries in winter, to avoid cutting new growth, and at this time also remove any wood which is older than four years, which helps give the tree a good shape, and encourages it to put forward new buds and flowers.
Serviceberry trees can be pruned drastically to create short bushes, but it also grows in small varieties that do not need to be pruned more than once a year.
Prune the serviceberry using either secateurs or pruning saws – even if there is no evidence of infection, it is a good idea to wipe the blades with bleach between cuts, as this ensures that any infection is not spread. Long-handled secateurs can be used on tall serviceberry trees.
Pruning is also an excellent opportunity for checking the tree for pests and diseases. As a relative of the rose, the Serviceberry is prone to "rust" and cankers. It can also be attacked by a variety of nasty insects such as the pear sawfly and the spider mite. These can be eliminated with soapy water sprays, horticultural oil, or by encouraging natural predators into the garden.