In search of ‘Berried’ treasure
Berry-bearing trees and shrubs come into their own in autumn, creating colourful displays that can last well into winter. From elder berries to rose hips, crab apples to firethorns, the addition of berrying plants adds to a new dimension to any garden, with plants carry fruits and berries through autumn and into winter.
Berrying plants also provide home grown food for hungry birds and wildlife too, enhancing their appeal and value to any garden.
Evergreen shrubs provide structure and form to the garden throughout the year, but many produce early displays of flowers followed by autumn berries. Once of the best compact shrubs for borders or patio pots is a Skimmia with a mouthful of a name, Skimmia japonica subsp. reevesiana. Don’t let this put you off as its displays of bright red berries are second to none!
Also check out the compact and spreading Viburnum davidii, a hardy shrub with distinctly veined evergreen foliage that produces the most unusual metallic-looking blue-black berries. It really is quite a talking point.
To create seasonal pots for autumn colour include a small Gaultheria mucronata carrying brilliant berries in pink, red or pure white. Combined with pansies and violas, trailing ivy, heather, carex or skimmia your pots will put on a display that lasts for months.
Trained against walls and fences, firethorn is a valuable evergreen shrub. Its thorny stems make it a great choice for producing secure garden boundaries, but don’t let the spines put you off buying Pyracantha. They provide valuable nesting sites for birds, flowers that attract bees, and red, orange or yellow berries to feed birds into winter.
Explore the cotoneaster family too, attractive ornamental shrubs with year-round appeal. The arching stems with herringbone-patterned stalks of Cotoneaster horizontalis make it an excellent choice to carpet banks and low borders or train up to cover bare fences. Birds love these berries, quickly stripping stems bare as they stock-up for winter.
If space allows, many ornamental trees produce bright berries and fruits as well as good displays of autumn foliage colour. Two of the best families are Rowan (Sorbus) and Crab Apple (Malus), and both make ideal trees for small gardens.
With such a rich and diverse range of plants to choose from it really is possible to fill your borders with berried treasure this autumn!
Top four shrubs with colourful fruits and berries
Firethorn – (Pyracantha varieties)
Skimmia – Many female varieties produce wonderful displays of berries including Skimmia japonica subsp. reevesiana, Skimmia japonica ‘Nymans’ and ‘Obsession’. Male varieties are equally appealing with great flower displays, like ‘Magic Marlot’ and ‘Rubella’.
Gaultheria Mucronata (Formerly called PERNETTYA)
Cotoneaster – wide range of berrying shrubs including Cotoneaster horizontalis, Cotoneaster ‘Coral Beauty’, C. ‘Cornubia’, C. lacteus, and many others.
Top tips for planning and planting
1. Many shrubs can be given a permanent home in large patio pots. Plant pots using a free-draining loam-based compost.
2. Always stand pots on feet during winter to prevent drainage holes getting blocked and pots filling-up with water, literally drowning their roots!
3. Small berry-bearing shrubs included in seasonal patio pot arrangements can be removed and planted out in the garden next spring.
4. Some plants have both male and female varieties, so it might just be the female one you buy that’s carrying berries. Ask for advice, as in future years you may need to grow male forms alongside the females to ensure their flowers get pollinated and develop future crops of berries.
Other popular plants of the moment
As well as choosing planting partners carrying berries try and create varied displays by including evergreen shrubs, ornamental grasses, architectural plants with strong shapes and forms, and those with great autumn foliage colours. Here are some to consider:
- Beauty Berry (Callicarpa ‘Profusion’ and many others)
- Carex ‘Evergold’
- Elder Berries (Sambucus varieties like ‘Black Beauty’
- Heathers (Including Calluna varieties)
- Holly (Ilex varieties)
- Osmanthus heterophyllus var Tricolor
- Roses with colourful hips, like Rosa rugosa, Rosa canina and Rosa ‘Geranium’
- Rowan (Sorbus varieties)
- Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae)
- Skimmia ‘Magic Marlot’
- Spindle (varieties of Euonymus like ‘Red Cascade’)
- Viburnum including Viburnum davidii and varieties of Guelder Rose (Viburnum opulus)
Source: HTA Plant of the Month
Photography: ©Adam Pasco