Amelanchier alnifolia & cvs.
Saskatoon is one of my favourite plants. I have fond childhood memories of berry-picking with my mom, in the northern BC woods. Besides bearing tasty fruit, saskatoon is a great ornamental plant, with beautiful white flowers in spring, and excellent fall colour. The many available cultivars allow you to choose the form you want, from the 5′ tall ‘Regent’, to the common Saskatoon, to the ‘Standing Ovation’ variety, which grows to about 14′ tall in a columnar fashion. We like the idea of using the columnar form as an alternative to the over-planted Swedish columnar aspen.
Saskatoon is a close relative to the serviceberry tree, but much hardier.
We like to use saskatoons in a mixed planting with other fruiting shrubs, to form small Prairie orchards that will fit into an average-sized residential yard. Who doesn’t enjoy fresh fruit straight from the tree in summer?
Saskatoon is prone to several diseases, including leaf spot, rust fungus, cytospora canker, powdery mildew, and fireblight. I’ve found that good plant stock, properly planted, and grown in fertile soil with enough water and adequate air flow, will prevent most incidences of disease.
Anytime if up to 10% of the canopy is to be pruned. Otherwise, it is best to wait for the dormant season (late October – early April). It is nice to prune these shrubs when the leaves are off, and you can see what you’re looking at.
This somewhat depends on the variety, and the intended purpose of the shrub. If saskatoon is planted in a grove on an acreage, I would say that less is more, and I would suggest simply deadwood pruning each year, and removing the odd major crossing/rubbing stem. The same would go for an orchard-type planting, where the only pruning might be to reduce the width of the rows at some point.
More intensive pruning is necessary when the shrubs are place in ornamental shrub beds, or in mixed ornamental/fruit garden plantings, where a cleaner-looking specimen is more desirable.
I would prune common saskatoon in a similar manner as common lilac, or high-bush cranberry. With the shorter cultivars, I would focus mainly on dead and diseased wood (important to keep the shrub disease-free), and remove redundant branches and badly crossing limbs.
We often get called in to prune saskatoon shrubs after they have been either brutally topped a few times, or neglected for many years. At that point, the crowns grows like a bird’s nest, and attempting to undo that mess could result in a very leggy and flimsy plant. With neglected specimens, I would advise staying out of the top of the crown, except to cut out disease. Focus on the lower half of the plants, removing deadwood, and improving the overall shape of the clump of stems. Of course, the best cure for neglect is not to look after your plants from the time of planting.
(c) 2017 Shane LePage, Wild Rose Garden & Tree Service Inc., Red Deer, AB