Amelanchier laevis

Amelanchier  in bloom

Amelanchier laevis berries
Amelanchier  berries (Photo credit –


Although it’s snowing again, it’s not too soon to start thinking about which plants you’d like to add to your landscape once Spring actually arrives.

Continuing with the theme of native plants, I’d like to mention two understory trees. The first is Amelanchier (Serviceberry, Shadbush). A.grandiflora has been crossed with other species to create some lovely, three season hybrids. The best of the hybrids are probably ‘Autumn Brilliance’ and ‘Robin Hill’. The leaves are a dark green, medium sized oval. Early May sees lightly fragrant, white flowers on ‘Autumn Brilliance’ and ones that are tinged with pink on ‘Robin Hill’. Those flowers are followed in June by pink and then blue berries. The fruit is edible to humans and grown as a food crop but good luck getting them before the birds who will eat them as soon as they ripen.

Fall foliage color of Amelanchier

Fall foliage color of Amelanchier

‘Autumn Brilliance’ can be grown as a large bushy shrub or small tree and has bright red foliage in the fall while ‘Robin Hill’ is grown only as a clump form tree and its fall foliage varies from yellow to red. Both grow approximately 25’ tall and 15’ in diameter in full sun or partial shade. These Amelanchier develop a deep, spreading root system if watered well for the first few years, a characteristic that makes Amelanchier somewhat drought tolerant but they do prefer average to moist soil. Deer tend to ignore them – hallelujah!

A.laevis (Alleghany Serviceberry) is similar and also sold as a clump form tree.

Cercis canadensis on the High Line last spring

Cercis canadensis on the High Line last spring

Cercis canadensis flowers

Cercis canadensis flowers in Nashville

The second tree, Cercis canadensis (Eastern Redbud) is noticed, if not identified, by many people because of its beautiful lavender pink, delicate blossoms. An April/May bloomer, the buds cover the branches and the heart-shaped leaves do not appear until after the tree flowers. It usually grows 20-25’ high and wide but there is now a cultivar named ‘Covey’ that is a weeper with zig zag branching; it only grows 8-10’ tall. It was introduced by Tim Brotzman who has a nursery in LakeCounty.

Cercis canadensis seedpods

Cercis canadensis seedpods (Phtoto credit –

Cercis canadensis fall foliage

Cercis canadensis fall foliage (Photo credit – Karen Tiffany)


The flowers are followed by long seedpods that are very attractive and often remain through the winter. Fall foliage is yellow. It is easily grown in well-drained soils with average to medium moisture and in full sun to partial shade. Plants perform best in with regular and consistent moisture. Since this tree does not transplant well, it should be planted when young and left undisturbed.

Cercis has several cultivars. ‘Forest Pansy’ has purple leaves and ‘Hearts of Gold’ has golden yellow foliage that does not burn. Both cultivars show their best color in full sun. There is also a variegated leaf cultivar called ‘Silver Cloud’ but it is scarce.

If you are considering planting any trees this year, consider one of these. Remember that planting trees is a gift to future generations.