Top articles on the subject of rock pears
The rock pear is undoubtedly one of the most important garden trees. It is a very undemanding shrub from the Rosaceae family. The approximately 25 types are mainly native in North America, in Europe only the approximately two meters high ordinary rock-bulb (Amelanchier ovalis) occurs. It grows wild on rather dry, mostly calcareous soils on rocky slopes up to an altitude of 2,000 metres. The most important garden plant in the assortment is the copper rock pear (Amelanchier lamarckii). It grows up to six metres high, usually with several stems and forms a beautiful, umbrella-like crown.
Appearance and growth
The leaves of the rock pears are alternate, elliptical and three to seven centimetres long. In some species they show a copper-red colour when budding – hence the name copper rock pear – and turn bright orange-red in autumn before they are completely discarded. The shoots are remarkably thin and have an olive-grey bark. All types grow loosely upright at first, become increasingly broader with age and form an expansive crown with overhanging branches. All rock pears are characterized by their numerous white, star-shaped shell flowers in spring. They appear in April in grape-like inflorescences at the ends of the short side shoots.
In the North American species, which are preferred because of their greater ornamental value, the foliage shoot goes hand in hand with the flowering: the copper rock pear shows copper-red foliage, the hanging rock pear (Amelanchier laevis), which later blooms, drives bronze-coloured leaves. This contrast makes the flowers really shine. The fact that the effect could be increased was discovered by gardeners in the Netherlands and in the 1970s they selected a hybrid with particularly large individual flowers, which they marketed under the name ‘Ballerina’.
The fruits of the flowering shrub ripen at the end of June. Many gardeners do not even know that the fruits are edible at all. In the past, rock pears were even cultivated as pure fruit trees. The fruits remind a little of blueberries in appearance and taste. They are rich in vitamins, minerals and tannic acid. The berry-good apple-fruits are approximately pea-big and discolour from cherry-red to blue-black in the ripe condition. In the past they served as a substitute for currants, which is why the rock pear is also called the currant tree in northern the United States. You can recognize ripe fruits by their dark colour and the fact that they become a little soft. You can pick them directly from the bush and eat them or process them into jam, juice or liqueur. The fruits of the copper rock pear can even be dried, which has given the shrub the nickname “raisin tree”. They only have to be faster than the birds, which also like the sweet fruits, when they are harvested.
Location and soil
The rock pear, which originates from North America, is completely hardy and can easily withstand severe frosts. The recommended location is a sunny to semi-shade site with slightly sandy, permeable, slightly acidic soil, with rock pears generally being very tolerant of their location and soil.
The best time for planting rock pears is in spring and autumn. If you have a very nutrient-poor soil in your garden, you should work some compost or fertiliser into the soil before planting. In heavy soils some sand provides better drainage.
As far as care is concerned, rock pears are very uncomplicated: There is nothing to do except a fertilization in spring with complete fertilizer or compost.
Avoid cutting the branches at a height (so-called “janitor’s cut”) and do not cut older plants back radically – they will only sprout out of the old wood very hesitantly and the crown will look disfigured for years. Due to their natural habitus, rock pears have an umbrella shape, which develops all by itself with increasing age. Normally, the multi-stem shrub does not need a taper or thinning cut. Rock pears naturally form picturesque crowns and pruning does not promote flowering. If the wood still seems too dense to you, you can thinn out individual shoots in late winter with the pruning shears. Cut off the shoots close to the ground. Dead wood is also removed in this way.
Rock pears can be used in many ways in the garden. The beautiful autumn colours are appreciated for their outstanding qualities in terms of leaf decoration and shape. A great advantage is the umbrella-like growth: under the loose crown there is plenty of space for subplanting. As heartworters, rock pears with their roots go deeper than wider and do not compete with their accompanying pile. Due to their small size, they also fit well into small gardens or front gardens. The column-shaped readouts are particularly suitable here. Rock pears are ideally suited for single planting, blue bulb flowers such as grape hyacinth (Muscari) or blue star (Scilla) harmonise particularly well with their white flowers in spring. In autumn, the rock pears decorate the garden again: their leaves are then bright yellow, orange or red.
With their picturesque crown shape, the abundant flowering and the bright red autumn colouring, rock pears are classic “multi-season trees” – they have a high ornamental value almost all year round and are therefore predestined for individual use. Thanks to their robust nature, however, they can also be easily integrated into groups of trees and hedges that grow freely. Also for nature gardens they are a good occupation as important bee and bird food. Whoever manages to forestall the birds can harvest the sweet, tasty wild fruit and process it into compote. In particular, the compact common rock pear and its garden shapes are well suited for pot planting. In principle, however, all species and varieties are suitable for pots and tubs as long as the container is in proportion to the plant size.
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Important species and varieties
In our gardens you can find the four to six meter high copper rock pear, the slightly lower hanging rock pear, the only about two meter high spike-shaped rock pear (Amelanchier spicata) as well as the grafted variety ‘Ballerina’. The latter has large flowers in bright white. The upright shrub or small tree grows three to six meters high and just as wide. The autumn colouring is less intense than that of the species. The top variety tolerates temporary drought. There is also a native species: the common rock pear, which grows between one and three metres high and blends perfectly into naturally growing hedges. Among the newer varieties, ‘Snowflake’ (Amelanchier laevis) is one of the most beautiful of its kind, with up to 12 centimetres of flowering grapes. It makes its large flowers shine in May. It can grow to be four to six metres high and three to four metres wide as it ages. The foliage is bluish green after bronze-red shoots, the autumn colouring is magnificent. There are high trunks of all species and varieties. They offer themselves as house trees and are in the formal garden design large in the trend. When buying a high trunk, however, you should take care to get plants that are true to their roots and not grafted on rowan berries, because these grafted trunks grow much stronger and drive root runners. Whether as a high trunk or in shrub form, the rock pear ‘Robin Hill’ (Amelanchier arborea) is particularly popular at present. It grows six to eight meters high and half as wide. Robin Hill’ shows a special spectacle of the flowers in April: they are pink in the buds, open pale pink and then turn white. With an annual growth rate of 20 to 50 centimetres, the magnificent autumn dyer is one of the most vigorous varieties.
Helvetia’ (Amelanchier rotundifolia), the dwarf rock pear, is a weakly growing form. As it is only man-high and one to two metres wide, it is particularly suitable for small gardens. Because it forms runners, one takes it also to the slope fortification. The leaf shoot is reddish. After flowering in April, the almost black berries, so popular with birds, ripen. The autumn colour is yellow-red. The columned rock pear ‘Obelisk’ (Amelanchier alnifolia) is characterized by its slender growth. The columned rock pear can grow three to five meters in height, but only 1 to 1.75 meters in width. Their tightly upright form makes itself just as good in individual positions as in groups of trees or wild fruit hedges. The planting distance is then at least one metre. It blossoms in April/May and colours beautifully in autumn. There are also specially selected fruit varieties such as ‘Prince William’ (Amelanchier canadensis) or ‘Smokey’ (Amelanchier alnifolia). They bear somewhat larger, particularly tasty fruits.
The wild species of the rock pear are mostly propagated by sowing, varieties like the popular ‘Ballerina’ are also propagated by grafting. You can also use rowanberry seedlings as a grafting base – the varieties then usually grow upright and become larger than graftings on seedlings of their own kind.
Diseases and pests
Rock pears are generally very robust. Although the leaves are more frequently affected by powdery mildew, it hardly impairs the vitality of the plants.
Video: These tips help in the fight against the boxwood borer
In this video, plant doctor René Wadas reveals MY BEAUTIFUL GARDEN editor Dieke van Dieken what you can do against the boxwood borer.Credits: Production: Folkert Siemens; Camera and editing: Fabian Primsch; Photos: Flora Press/BIOSPHOTO/Joel Heras
I am Don Burke, one of the authors at My Garden Guide. I am a horticulturist that cultivates, grows, and cares for plants, ranging from shrubs and fruits to flowers. I do it in my own garden and in my nursery. I show you how to take care of your garden and how to perform garden landscaping in an easy way, step by step.I am originally from Sydney and I wrote in local magazines. Later on, I have decided, more than two decades ago, to create my own blog. My area of specialization is related to orchid care, succulent care, and the study of the substrate and the soil. Therefore, you will see many articles dedicated to these disciplines. I also provide advice about how to improve the landscape design of your garden.