7 edible shrubs for improving urban biodiversity

3. Amelanchier or Juneberry (Amelanchier lamarckii)

Plant an Amelanchier or two and you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner. Adored by wildlife for its mass of flowers and juicy blueberry-like fruit, this gem of a shrub adds an elegant beauty to every urban landscape, large or small, all year round. The Amelanchier’s characteristic layered, open structure adds a distinct aesthetic feature to the garden, either pruned as a small tree (it grows up to 10 metres high) or planted as a row of shrubs. 

The Amelanchierhas its roots in America (where it’s also called Serviceberry) but has been naturalised in the Netherlands for centuries, such that the Krentenboom, as it’s known here, is unmissable in the Dutch landscape. In the wild Amelanchier lamarckii is abundant in parts of the country such as Drenthe where special forest hikes take in the best locations to spot Amelanchiers in bloom. 

To plant an Amelanchier is to celebrate the seasons, each season showing off a different, equally spectacular side to this hardy deciduous shrub. With its branches laden with large off-white blossoms dotted with copper-coloured new leaves, the sight of an Amelanchier in bloom is to be savoured – it’s quite breathtaking, especially against a blue sky. The whole shrub becomes a magnet for bees, bumblebees, wasps who definitely wouldn’t want to miss this.

The Krentenboom takes its name from the edible fruit krenten (meaning currants)that starts to ripen in summer. Historically, they were dried and used instead of real Corinth grape currants for baking. Look for the clusters of fruit as they ripen from red into deep purple, but not all at once. You’ll have to compete with birds such as finches, thrushes and woodpeckers who flock to Amelanchiers to devour the irresistibly juicy fruit. Every year, they’ll remember when it’s berry time, meaning your garden will truly become a bird paradise! Krentencan be used in place of blueberries, they’re excellent for jam due to their high pectin content and if the birds haven’t beaten you to a decent harvest, make a pie! Or if they did, remember to plant a few more shrubs next year. 

Equally spectacular in autumn, the Amelanchier lights up the garden when its leaves transform into fiery tones of copper, orange, yellow and red, the sight of which gives a welcome sense of warmth as the temperatures start to plunge.