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Spring Continues and Serviceberries
May 16, 2011

The month of May is passing me by way to quickly.

Here it is more than half over.

I think we need to add a couple of weeks to May.

As you may know by now, May is by far my favorite month of the year.


Life explodes.

Everywhere you look, there are signs of new life.

Flowers are blooming, trees and shrubs awaken to show green foliage (my weeping crabtree).

Birds songs still fill the air, as yet more of our feathered friends are returning to their breeding grounds.

While migrating and new birds enjoy my yard and feeders, the regulars have dispersed to some degree as they are busy nesting.

It's not so bad, it gives the bird feed budget a respite.

So many waterways are filled songs of love, as the frogs and toads are busy romancing.

Because toads are a frog, they too require water for breeding.

As you can tell by the robin on her nest in my yard and papa chickadee keeping an eye on his nest box (pictured below), the birds are busy.

Females chickadees do all the sitting, while the male brings the food to her and attempts to keep other birds at bay.

Even Karen's Lovebirds are in the parental way.

At the bottom of this letter is a picture of one baby Lovebird (less than 12 hours old) and two
remaining eggs.

There were four eggs, but one wasn't fertilized.

As the weather continues to warm up, insects emerge and this creates a feast for many of your birds.

(Can mosquito season be far off?)

While enjoying a walk, I spotted my first butterfly of the year.

A beautiful 'Eastern Tiger Swallowtail'.

He was hanging out in the woods, on the May Apples.

Yes, Life explodes in May.

At least here it does.

And I am Loving It.

The picture of the oriole (poor quality) is from the field, they still refuse my offerings.

Finally, a descent image of the camera shy Gray Catbird.

The name may sound like a dull and boring bird, but as you can see................

This male catbird is rather handsome.

Don't you think?

Check out the dark 'Mohawk' like steak down the head.

A shy bird that stays in hiding most of the time, this insect and fruit eating bird will visit yards if the habitat is there for them.

Famous for their cat like calls, this bird also produces a wonderful, multi-toned song, that is pleasing to any ear.

Next on the picture list are the 'Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers'.

(Gray Catbird)

Not a bit bashful, gnatcatchers are one busy little bird and refuse to stay still long enough for me to focus in and shoot.

Hopefully I can share an image soon.

'Nature' is so special.

Yes, you and I must really take time to enjoy all that our Creator has given us.

And May is the perfect month :-)

Before I continue, I want to say that I really appreciate and enjoy the notes and letters you guys send me on your birds, bunnies and other happenings in your yards and gardens.

Gardening and wildlife have special bonding powers with total strangers.

Thank You Stella for the reminders.

I am often too busy to get the word out, but you guys always have my back.

If you aren't using banana peels and eggs shells in your gardens, now is a good time to start.

Many of you have saved your shells and peels over winter and now you can put them to use.

Banana peels are rich in Phosphorus and Potassium.

Both chemicals are great for root and fruit production.

Especially for Tomatoes and on Roses.

An added bonus, it appears that aphids dislike bananas.

Egg shells are a great source of calcium and a needed element in strong fruiting tomatoes.

Simply bury some when you plant and continue as a side dressing.

Crushed egg sells also work as a slug deterrent and as a source of calcium for all of your nesting birds that require calcium for strong eggs and bones.

While you're at it, all of your citrus peels can be cut up and placed around your acid loving plants.

Hydrangea, Rhodies, Hollies, Dogwood, Blueberries and several other acid loving plants will appreciate it.

Gardening For Wildlife month continues.

As you may now know, May is recognized as 'National Garden For Wildlife Month'.

Last week I gave you some ideas on wildlife gardening and how to set up a habitat to attract birds an other wildlife to your little corner of the world.

Today and the next couple of weeks, I'm going to focus on a plant species that I feel is a can't
miss in any wildlife garden.

This week, the topic is on Serviceberries (Amelanchier spp.).

Yes, there is at least one for your gardens, no matter where you live.


Amelanchier spp. :

A genus of about 20 native species of shrubs and small deciduous trees in the Rosaceae (Rose family).

This genus is native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, growing primarily in early successional habitats, like woods edge and thickets.

It is most diverse taxonomically in North America, especially in the northern United States and in Canada, and is native to every state except Hawaii.

The Serviceberry is known by different names, depending on where you are located.

(Why the name Serviceberry? you can find out at the bottom of this letter under Additional Information.)

It is known as Saskatoon berry and Juneberry, .

Thicket berry, Deerberry, 'Sarvisberry'

Sarvisberries are a different plant all together, but regionally the name sticks.


Shadblow and shadbush trees, for the concurrent annual spawning migration of the shad and the blooming of serviceberries.

If you don't live along the Atlantic coast or New England area and into eastern Canada, you might not have a clue as to why this name.

As you can see, there are a host of regional names and and several stories with the names.

It is for this reason, that Carlos Linnaeus (a Swedish botanist, zoologist, and physician) in the 1700's, created the "Binomial nomenclature".

A system, where every kind of plant and animal is given a name consisting of two Latin words.

One for its genus, and one for species.

By using these botanical or Latin terms, you can now talk plants with any biologist anywhere on this planet.

It is much easier to talk Amelanchier spp. no matter where you are, than to talk Shadblow , Serviceberry and so on, and possibly get some odd looks from others

Many people think that the serviceberry tree is one of the most beautiful trees in the United States.

Definitely one of the most serviceable.

Because of its various sizes, it can be considered a bush or a tree.

Some of these trees can grow to be 49 to 50 feet tall, while others remain in the 10 to 20 foot range.

There are roughly 20 species of Serviceberry trees in North America.

The growing list of cultivars continues as well.

Height can vary from a 2 foot (60 cm) spreading shrub to a 30 plus foot (9 + m) or more tree.

Positive identification may be difficult, but the species itself is easy to recognize.

Bark is light gray streaked with darker vertical lines.

The smooth young bark becomes more flaked with age.

Growing Conditions:

Serviceberry can be found growing in most conditions, except where extremely wet or the deepest shade.

It grows best in full sun and on moist, well-drained soil but can be found along roadsides, invading abandoned fields, in existing windbreaks and in woodlands.

Serviceberry's early flowering in spring makes it an important initial source of pollen and nectar for bees and other insects.

Red squirrel, chipmunk, flying squirrel and red fox are also fond of the fruit.

Areas of Usage:

Since it has very attractive flowers and foliage, serviceberry is well suited for plantings around the home.

This might allow you to get a fair share of the tasty berries before the local wildlife have a feast.

They make excellent pies, wine, and preserves, so perhaps you might want to plant more than one.

These plants fit in well anywhere they can get enough sun to bear fruit, although larger specimens are even found bearing fruit in forests.

They do well in windbreaks, roadside plantings and along the banks of streams and ponds.

They are resistant to air pollution and suitable for urban plantings.

Medium water.

Moist, well-drained, neutral to slightly acid soils.

They prefer moist to wet, acidic soils but unlike many other acid loving plants, do not develop chlorosis in higher pH.

Utah berries prefer a drier soil and thrive in rocky areas.

Amelanchier (or Serviceberry) are hardy, long-lived ornamental trees, many of which are Native to the United States and Canada.

They typically grow in the understory as a small tree, but they are extremely adaptable and can thrive in sunny areas as well.

In your urban or suburban sites, they are a great specimen plant or they can be grouped together in naturalized areas.

Depending on the species, they are zone hardy from Z3 and 4 to Z9.

Some cultivars of Western Serviceberry are hardy to Z1.

Four Seasons:

Fall color varies among the species but can range from shades of yellow to orange, scarlet, to purple.

The smooth, slightly striated gray bark and interesting branching form is attractive in winter.

Small delicate white flowers in clusters appear fleetingly in April to May, before or with the emerging leaves.

Peak flowering lasts a few days up to a week, but planting a combination of species in a grouping can extend the flowering time.

The ‘berries’ are small berrylike pomes.

The red fruits appear in June-July and mature to a ripe purple.

If you are a bird lover, you may want to plant some serviceberry trees just to attract birds.

They will draw all types of birds, including Blue jays, bluebirds, robins, mockingbirds, waxwings, cardinals, brown thrashers, catbirds, tufted titmice and a host of other fruit eating birds.

Today, the tree is used most often for ornamental purposes as a landscape tree.

They are often planted in large groupings, where they make for splendid fall foliage or in front of evergreen trees where they make nice contrasting colors.

Experts agree, that 'Amelanchier trees' are a four season treat for the landscape, as they provide spring flowers, summer fruits, fall colors and the stripped, gray bark is attractive in any landscape.

Sometimes smaller serviceberry trees are used as hedges.

No matter, they are an almost must for any wildlife habitat.

Additional information:

The name 'Serviceberry' comes from funeral or memorial service.

This tree flowers early in spring (about two weeks before dogwood).

Legend has it that when the serviceberry was flowering it was finally warm enough to dig a grave and have a funeral service.

Serviceberry is also known as sarvisberry. "Sarvis" is the Appalachian pronunciation of service.

All Amelanchiers make good small landscape trees or multi-stemmed shrubs.

Amelanchier trees are most effective when used in a naturalistic setting or with an evergreen background.

Amelanchier is a common understory tree in southeastern forests of North America.

The wood of Amelanchier is among the heaviest in the U.S., and would be more valuable if the trees grew larger.

Amelanchier fruit is used to make pies and sweetbreads and can be dried like raisins.

Cherokees used serviceberry tea to aid digestion, and children who had worms were given baths in serviceberry tea.

Native Indians used the tree's straight wood to make arrow shafts.

The four most Common Amelanchier species are:

Downy serviceberry: native to the eastern half of the United Atates and lower portion of Canada.

Canada sreviceberry: Native to the northeastern portions of the United States and much of Canada.

Western serviceberry: native to the mountains and pacific northwest all the way to alaska and northwestern portions of Canada.

Utah sericeberry: native to the southwest portion of the United States.

The consciousness of loving and being loved brings a warmth and richness to life that nothing else can bring.

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) Irish Dramatist and Poet

God knows what he is doing.

Did you know that loving one another is a command from Jesus.

Here it is.

“A new command I give you:
Love one another,

as I have loved you, so you must love one another".

John 13:34 (NIV)

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

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Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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