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Juneberries, serviceberries, saskatoons, shadberries, or shadblow (Amelanchier species) are multi-stemmed trees or large shrubs ranging from 8 to 18 feet, depending on the species and variety. Extremely hardy (zone 2), they range as far north as Alaska. They are the first trees to bloom in the Maine or New England countryside, a week or two earlier than the pin cherries. Cultivated varieties can be quite ornate, with showy masses of white blooms. Fall foliage can be striking red, orange and gold. They bear fruit in late June or early July. The fruit is similar to a cranberry in size, but soft and; red to dark purple when ripe. Its flavor is mild and sweet, sometimes compared to a blueberry, though that thought has never come to my mind. The fruit was a mainstay in the Western native diet, used fresh, then dried and mixed with venison or wild game to make pemmican. Later it sustained settlers on the Western prairies. Today the fruit is enjoyed fresh, canned, frozen, or dried like raisins. They are baked in pies and made into preserves. and wine.

The fruit is slightly higher in vitamin C when picked underripe. Fully ripe fruit has a higher sugar content, which is best for fresh eating and wine making. Juneberries prefer soils with a pH between 5.0 and 7.0. They thrive in a wide range of soil types, even tolerating wet areas, but not standing water. An understory species in the wild, they will grow in full sun to partial shade. They don’t need extremely rich soil; average soil will do.

Juneberries are propagated from seed, cuttings, or rooted suckera that spring up around the plant. When buying a bare-rooted plant, choose one with a well developed root system. Take care not to injure the roots, and keep them damp and avoid even minimal exposure to sunlight.

Most varieties are self-fruitful, but to ensure optimal pollination, plant more than one variety. Space plants 8 feet apart for short varieties and 12 feet for taller ones. A 6-foot spacing will create an attractive hedgerow.


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