My Serviceberries are Out of Service
Because of rabbits, I need to replace the three ‘Autumn Brilliance’ serviceberries (Amelanchier x arborea) that stand along the west hedge of our lightly shaded back garden.
This past winter was so long and the snow so deep, the rabbits ended up chewing even more of the bark off some of their favorite trees than they normally do. They are especially fond of serviceberries, dogwoods (Cornus), crabapples (Malus), and most fruit trees. I noticed they generally stayed away from the spicebush (Lindera benzoin), fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus), and Viburnums.
When rabbits girdle small trees, chewing the bark around the entire circumference, the tree is a goner. That’s because the vascular tissues are interrupted, blocking the transport of water, nutrients, and sugars between roots and leaves.
On the bright side: when I first planted two of these serviceberries I did a criminally bad job of pruning them, so this is an opportunity to get rid of the embarrassing results. Note: don’t prune your new trees and shrubs by just lopping off the top three feet of the main stems. If you do you will find yourself referring to the unfortunate plant as Igor.
So the question now is: what should I replace the dying serviceberries with? Has to be shade tolerant, less than 20′ tall, and I prefer something with more of an upright shape. Also, wildlife value is important to me. Here are some possibilities.
- More Serviceberries! I do love this plant, after all. Beautiful white flowers in early spring, berries for the birds, and gorgeous fall color all make this a fantastic small tree. However, I would have to be very vigilant on the rabbit front. For one thing, I need to find something other than chicken wire to wrap around the base. I really don’t like working with chicken wire, it can give nasty scratches if you don’t wear gloves, which I often don’t.
- Wayfaringtree Viburnum (Viburnum lantana). Nice white flowers, multi-colored berries, and decent fall color. Also viburnums seem to be less attractive to rabbits.
- Cranberrybush Viburnum (Viburnum trilobum). I actually have some of these already along the alley fence. Like the wayfaringtree except with red berries that can be translucent and are supposed to be a favorite of cedar waxwings.
- Chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia). I have it on good authority that this is another tree considered a tasty treat by rabbits. Another small tree with white flowers in April and good fall color. The glossy red fruits look really nice and last well into winter.
- Hybrid Witch Hazel (Hamamelis x intermedia). Maybe ‘Arnold’s Promise’ or ‘Diane’. There are no witch hazels in our garden, and that makes me feel deprived. Another rabbit magnet, though, from what I hear.