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A few weeks ago I welcomed home a new tree for my front yard: The Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry, or Juneberry tree. Over the past few months, I’ve painstakingly researched the possibilities and settled on this beauty. I can’t wait to tell you about it and all the suggestions I have for choosing and caring for your perfect tree!

The Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry boasts 4 season interest. From flowers to berries to fiery red to beautiful bark, this tree gives you a lot of bang for the buck.

The Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry Tree

Sometime over Christmas I caught the gardening/landscaping bug, and decided that it would be nice to have some more privacy in my front yard. The large windows to the left are actually my “master” bedroom. It’s a little exposing to be in the very front of the house with a large window, but I’d prefer to be downstairs and that room has the biggest closet :). Directly across the street from me is my wonderful neighbor Tony’s backyard (You’ll hear more about Tony later). So I thought putting a beautiful tree that I could see from my bedroom window would provide some shade and privacy, while giving my yard interest and giving me something nice to look at while lounging in bed. After going through the process, I thought I’d share some tips with you for choosing the right tree, and relate it to why I chose the Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry.

What is the purpose of your tree?

This is the biggest question to ask. And the answer may be two or three-fold.  Some “purposes” to consider:

  • For shade – if you want a shady spot to sit under, you’ll need to choose a tree with higher limbing. If you choose something that starts branching 14″ from the ground, you’ll never be able to sit under it.>
  • For privacy- are you trying to block your bedroom window from the neighbors view, or hide an ugly view FROM your window? You’ll need to choose a very full tree whose limb height will be sure to match up with the height of your window.
  • To attract birds, butterflies or other animals.
  • To look pretty – obviously everyone wants a pretty tree. Which brings me to the next topic…
This dogwood is white and pink because it is a grafted tree and a root sucker from the rootstock (the white flowers) was not pruned out in a timely manner and has been allowed to grow up with the part of the tree from the scion (the pink flowers).

This multi-stemmed bi-color dogwood (Cornus Florida) is white and pink because it is a grafted tree and a root sucker from the rootstock (the white flowers) has been allowed to grow up with the part of the tree from the scion (the pink flowers).

What does “pretty” mean to you?

Here are a few tree features that you can consider:

  • Flowers – if so, what color? Make sure you find out how the tree smells… I know that’s weird, but some trees (such as a Pear tree) will have a really unpleasant odor. Some are too fragrant for my taste. And some flowers attract pesky insects or bees so you’ll want to consider that if you’ll be walking by it each day.
  • Leaf Color – do you like leaves that will change color in the fall, or leaves that remain green? Do you want something that will keep it’s color, even through the winter? If so, you’ll have to choose an evergreen.
  • Bark – some trees, like the birch, have amazingly showy bark that peels and looks really neat. Other trees have sort of a craggy looking trunk… which a lot of people like, but others really don’t. Do some research to see what you like.
  • Trunk  – some trees have a single stem branching structure, while others have multiple stems (or some trees have both options). A lot of times the multi-stem options look more like a shrub, while the single trunk options look more like a tree. Multi-stem options sometimes are created due to grafting the branches onto the trunk near the base, and this can result in some really neat hybrid trees (such as the dogwood to the right that has both white and pink flowers mixed together!)
  • When looking at trees, you'll see these terms used to describe their shape. When you buy, they may not look exactly like this, so it's important to find out how big the tree will get and how the branches will spread.

    When looking at trees, you’ll see these terms used to describe their shape. When you buy, they may not look exactly like this, so it’s important to find out how big the tree will get and how the branches will spread.

    Shape – There are many different types of tree habits, such as weeping, conical, shrubby, bushy, pyramidal. What looks prettiest to you? Check out the chart for some illustrations of the different tree habits.

What will work for your space?

  • The most important thing to consider is how much space you have for your tree.  Sure it looks cute now, but how big will it get in 30 years? Do you have the appropriate space for that type of growth?
  • How close is it to your house? If it’s close, make sure you choose something with a non-evasive root system.
  • Will it get full sun, or be in a very shady spot?
  • How much maintenance does it require? Some trees require special fertilizers, pruning, or protection from frost. Is that something you’re willing to keep up with or would you rather something with less maintenance?
  • Is it hardy in your zone? If you get a tree hardy in zone 7 and you live in zone 5, there’s a potential that the cold weather in the winter will kill it. Make sure you do your research and find something native to your area for the healthiest tree.
  • Does it match up with the conditions of your soil? Well drained, clay, etc. Make sure you find a non-fussy tree or something that will thrive in your soil type…. or adjust the soil to your new trees needs before you plant.
  • What kind of disease is the tree prone to?  Some trees are very prone to disease and some are very resistant. Often times, hybrids of trees are created to give you the best of both worlds: the beauty of the one tree with the disease resistant characteristics of the other… it kind of reminds me of a mom and dad tree having a baby tree. Don’t we all hope our kids will get the best of both parents, and grow up to be their own unique person with distinctive traits of their own?
    • One example is the Cornus Florida, which is pictured above. These beautiful tree were under serious attack from insects and diseases in the 1970’s and the future of dogwoods used by landscapers was in jeopardy. To address concerns for use of dogwoods in landscapes a plan was developed to cross-breed the native American dogwood tree with the hardier Asian species, Cornus kousa, commonly called Kousa dogwoods, producing a new and unique hybrid tree, the Stellar Dogwood.
  • If you have a small yard like I do, you’ll want maximum impact.  I would advise finding a tree that will flourish over several seasons, like the Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry. But, that might not be your goal. Maybe you’d prefer something that blooms in late summer, because that’s the time of year that your garden needs a punch. Or maybe you are looking for something that will bloom in conjunction with other plants in your garden. Maybe you just want something that will provide a backdrop for other plantings. It’s really up to you, and your individual needs.

Planting & Caring for the Tree

Getting my Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry home was the very first step. Luckily, I used a local nursery and they were able to load the tree into my neighbor Tony’s truck for us.  My tree was already pretty tall — about 12 feet! I didn’t want to get a dinky little tree and have to wait 10 years for it to look half decent, especially in my front yard. So, I sprung for a larger, more established tree right off the bat.

I spoke with the nursery and they told me to leave the tree in the burlap when I plant it. They also recommended digging a hole that’s just shy of the height of the root ball, but about 4 times the width of the rootball. So, we ended up digging a hole about 4 feet wide and 1 foot deep to accommodate the new tree. A lot of times, people plant the tree too deep, and then it doesn’t grow, so it’s important to do some measuring and make sure you give the tree the best chance to thrive!

We slowly and carefully lowered the Autumn Brilliance Srrviceberry into the new hole, taking care not to damage the limbs or the root. I held it steady and tried to keep it level while Tony back-filled the dirt.  After it was in, I covered the area with a 3″ layer of mulch to keep the roots cool. The mulch also helps the soil to retain moisture and suppresses the growth of weeds with can compete with the tree for water and nutrients.

Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry tree in the back of the truck

Here’s my tree parked in the driveway after we took it home from the nursery.

Tony using a pick axe to plant the Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry

Tony used a pick ax to dig through my rocky clay soil. I supervised 🙂

Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry Tree Right After Planting

Here’s my Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry right after planting. You can see it’s very tall, but not very full (yet)

So, how much water does my tree need?

Newly transplanted trees require a tremendous amount of water.  This set up will get you ready to water your tree and determine how much water it needs per week:

measurementsCreate a “saucer” around the tree by laying down a circle of extra mulch that lies just under the tree’s branches. The circular area under the outer edge of a tree’s branches is known as a drip line. Keep this perimeter circle about 2 inches high and 2 inches wide.

Measure the diameter in both directions at circle of mulch you’ve created around the tree’s drip line. Because a tree’s root system corresponds with its branches, you can determine how far the roots extend by measuring how much square footage exists under the branches.

Calculate the square footage by using the area formula of length x width. This will give you a decent idea of how big the root system is. It’s ok to be approximate, or round to an even number, etc.
If your width is 4 feet, and your length is 5 feet, your [approximate] total will be 20 sq. ft.
4ft x 5ft  = 20 sq ft root system.

Calculate how many gallons the tree needs based on the square footage. Trees need about 1 inch of water from the rain or from irrigation each week. In practical terms, that means 1/2 gallon of water each week for every square foot of root area. If a root system is 20 square feet, it needs about 10 gallons of water, or 2 waterings from a 5-gallon bucket.

20 sq. ft.  x 0.5 gallons/sq. ft.  = 10 gallons

Calculating Rainfall

Determine how much rain your area has received in a week by checking your rain gauge or a reliable weather service. If there has been no rain, you’ll need to give the tree the equivalent amount of water from a hose. If you’ve had rain, you’ll have to determine how much water the tree has received in order to supplement the rest with the hose. Otherwise you’ll overwater the tree.

A good rule of thumb is if there is a 1/2 inch of reported rainfall, for example, water for about half the time you would for a week with no rainfall. Here are more specific calculations:
1 inch of rain = .6 gallons of water per square foot


________________ x ________________ x 0.6 = ________________
rainfall (in.) area of root system (sq. ft.) gallons / sq. ft. total gallons of rain that reached your tree

For every inch of rain you can collect just over half a gallon of rainwater (.6 gallons) per square foot. So if you received .5 inches of rain and  the area of your root system is 20 square feet multiply: .5 inches x 20 square feet x .6 gallons/inch = 6 gallons. A tree with a root system of 20 square feet needs about 10 gallons of water per week, so your tree will only need 4 gallons of water that week!

How to water your tree

From what I’ve read, trees do the best when the water is slowly dispersed, or dripped, so that it can soak deeply into the roots. I’ve also read that it’s better to water your tree once or twice per week rather than daily to encourage root growth. For best results, as someone at the nursery where you get your new tree. These are simply my suggestions based on what I’ve read. There are obviously other ways you can do it!

  • Run a hose into a 5-gallon bucket until it is filled. For the purposes of calculating watering time at the correct water pressure, run the hose at a trickle. Make a note of how much time it takes to fill the bucket, as well as the setting on the hose nozzle.
  • Multiply the time it took to fill one bucket by the number of buckets of water needed each week when there is no rainfall. If it takes 30 minutes to fill a 5-gallon bucket at a trickle, then the hose runs about 60 minutes for the entire job. The next time you water the tree, you can use the hose directly on the ground around the tree rather than filling buckets first.
  • Place the hose so it lies about halfway between the edge of the saucer circle and the tree trunk. Turn the water to a trickle. Let the water run for the amount of time needed.
  • Don’t forget about the weekly rainfall totals!

Product recommendation:

  • Treegator: I purchased a treegator slow release watering bag to water my Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry. It basically does what I recommended above, and it can save you time.
  • Tutorial: I found this tutorial that shows how you can use a 5 gallon bucket to make a slow release watering system for your tree quickly and easily.

Getting Suggestions & Ideas

  • The internet:  The internet is a great source to get started. Go on an arboretum website, or just google “small tree for zone 5” or something along those lines. You’ll be well on your way to finding suggestions and forums where you can ask question. As I always recommend, create a Pinterest board of your favorites so you can go back to it.
  • Books: I recently purchased a book called The Four-Season Landscape: Easy-Care Plants and Plans for Year-Round Color and just dove right in. I get tons of ideas from my new book, which I tend to carry around with me like a bible. It has a lot of suggestions for trees with 4 season interest (among many other landscaping suggestions). I highly recommend it.
  • Family and Friends: Ask for advice. If they live locally, they may have had good/bad experience with particular trees. Or they may have mature trees in their yards already that you can go take a look at and see if you like them.  My biggest help was in speaking to an arborist  friend of mine who maintains a national arboretum nearby. He was able to give me really good suggestions for our particular zone (Zone 5), and help me choose a tree that would grow easily, give lots of interest, and actually “fit” in the small space I have. Thanks Mark!
  • Go for a walk: I have my doggy Roxy, so we walk every day anyway. But take a stroll through your streets and see what others in your neighborhood are planting. I started my search in the winter so I was able to determine which I didn’t like once they lost their leaves. The spring is so beautiful! Every time I take a walk there are new trees blooming and other ones changing. It’s quite magical.

Is the Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry the right tree for you? What trees do you have on your property? Feel free to share your experiences below!


I get many questions about the growth of the tree, so here are some photos I’ve taken over time! Please let me know if you have any questions.

May 28, 2013

(approx 1 month after planting)


May 2014

(approx 1 year after planting)


MAY 2015

(approx 2 years after planting)

2 years after planting

2 years after planting

June 2015 (with berries)

October 30, 2015

(approx 2 1/2 years after planting)
Enjoy the brilliant red and orange leaf colors of the Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry in the Fall.

Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry, PrettyPurpleDoor.com

10/30/15 – The Brilliance of the Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry is here!

Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry, PrettyPurpleDoor.com

Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry, 10/30/15 – closeup of the leaves

Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry, PrettyPurpleDoor.com

10/30/15 – a photo of the leaves against the sky.

For your pinning pleasure...

The Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry tree boasts 4 season interest
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