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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Flowering Trees for Spring

Amelanchier lamarckii
Common Name Snowy mespilus
Family Rosaceae
Genus Amelanchier
Species lamarckii
Hardiness Range 5A - 8A
Mature Height 25' to 40' / 7.6m to 12.2m

Environment : Prefers full shade to partial shade or partial sun. Soil should be moist.
Delicate, star-shaped, white flowers are borne in March and April with bronze leaves that mature to dark green and then orange and red in autumn. A great choice for spring.
Time to take cuttings: May to July

A very beautiful, small North American tree that is attractive at all seasons, even in winter when its spreading crown of fine shoots makes a satisfying, dense, shrubby shape. In March the branches erupt with a froth of star-shaped flowers in lax conical heads, just as the coppery pink young leaves unfold - in summer these are yellowish green, but later turn scarlet and crimson. In July the tree is studded with dark red berries which become purple-black as they ripen. Often found growing wild as an escape, and sometimes mistakenly called A. canadensis.

The Royal Horticultural Society has given it its prestigious Award of Garden Merit (AGM).

Cultivation details

Prefers a rich loamy soil in a sunny position or semi-shade but thrives in any soil that is not too dry or water-logged. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Prefers an acid or neutral soil. Hardy to about -25°c. This species does not produce suckers. All members of this genus have edible fruits and, whilst this is dry and uninteresting in some species, in many others it is sweet and juicy. Many of the species have potential for use in the garden as edible ornamentals. The main draw-back to this genus is that birds adore the fruit and will often completely strip a tree before it is fully ripe. This species is worthy of special attention because of the quality of its fruit. It was formerly cultivated for these fruits and there are some named varieties. The fruit is freely produced in Britain. Considerable confusion has existed between this species and A. arborea, A. canadensis and A. laevis. Some botanists consider this species to be a natural hybrid A. canadensis x A. laevis. Hybridizes freely with other members of this genus. Grafting onto seedlings of A. lamarckii or Sorbus aucuparia is sometimes practised in order to avoid the potential problem of hybridizing.


Seed - it is best harvested 'green', when the seed is fully formed but before the seed coat has hardened, and then sown immediately in pots outdoors or in a cold frame. If stored seed is obtained early enough in the autumn, it can be given 4 weeks warm stratification before being left out in the winter and it should then germinate in the spring. Otherwise seed can be very slow to germinate, perhaps taking 18 months or more. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in a sheltered outdoor position, planting them out once they are 20cm or more tall. If there is sufficient seed it is best to sow it thinly in an outdoor seedbed. Grow the seedlings on for two years in the seedbed before planting them out into their permanent positions during the winter. Layering in spring - takes 18 months. Division of suckers in late winter. The suckers need to have been growing for 2 years before you dig them up, otherwise they will not have formed roots. They can be planted out straight into their permanent positions if required.


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