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Berries in bloom for the holidays

POSTED: November 15, 2013 1:00 a.m.

A “cornucopia” of plant life blesses the northeast area of the state as fall winds down and the beautiful colors of the trees and shrubs fade away. Then we can anxiously see the many ornamental trees and shrubs that will reveal their showy clusters of brightly colored berries, painting the landscape just in time for the upcoming holiday season.

In our zone, we can plant shrubs and trees like beautyberry, winterberry, crabapple, pyracantha, viburnums, chokeberry and other types of evergreen hollies.

What do these shrubs have in common? They all possess brightly colored berrylike fruit in colors of red, orange, blue and yellow.

Predominant colors in the winter are white, gray and brown. Therefore, an excellent way to brighten up a drab landscape is to plant shrubs that berry. If you pair the shrubs with evergreens such as pine, spruce and cypress, then you will have a spectacular display in your yard.

Most beautyberry shrubs have already berried for the fall, but others such as winterberry holly and chokeberry last well into the winter months. Their cranberry red berries are valued for their heavy fruit set and persistence. Winterberry, which is a native deciduous holly, shows best in the winter when the leaves have fallen and a prolific display of red berries show a dramatic winter contrast.

There is simply not another shrub with the staying power of the winterberry. Numerous popular cultivars are the ‘Red Sprite’ and ‘Winter Red.’ Another plus is the berry has a low-fat content so the birds tend to go to other shrubs with higher fat content for their food source.

Make sure to plant a male shrub nearby for the females to set fruit.

The red chokeberry shrub is an upright spreading plant. It is also valued for its excellent fruiting ability. A good variety is the ‘Briliiantissima.’

Evergreen hollies are great choices for winterberry interest as well. The dark green foliage provides a perfect backdrop for the bright red berries. Burford and Foster’s holly are two popular choices for this area.

China hollies on the other hand produce yellow berries which tend to stay on the plant longer in the winter. Some hollies can reach 20 to 40 feet in height while others can be found in dwarf form reaching around 10 feet tall.

Many Viburnum species have impressive red or blue fruit, but one must be careful as the winter approaches. Birds will consume the berries if found.

The American cranberrybush viburnum is one of the loveliest with its bright red edible fruit. It has a stunning display throughout the early winter months. But again, hungry birds and squirrels will usually consume the berries by mid-winter.

Pyracantha (firethorn) is another shrub with bright orange/red berries. This thorny shrub can be grown as a hedge or espaliered against a wall for climbing. This stunning shrub can also be trained up a trellis or fence to provide a vertical accent in the landscape. Plant the ‘Mohave’ Firethorn for winter beauty.

Many varieties of crabapple trees and Hawthorn trees can provide decorative winter fruit. These are beautifully small trees which can provide red, orange, yellow and gold fruit.

If you are interested in providing plants that produce food for birds, this is an excellent way to add beauty and diversity to the backyard. Ornamental shrubs and trees provide one or more of the basic elements to maintain a bird population. Having a food source and a rich canopy of shelter and water will provide all the elements to attract birds for watching.

On the other hand, some tips to keep your berries longer and avoid giving them up for the birds are simple.

First plant your berry accented plants in a busier area of the garden where the birds are unlikely to linger for a meal. By a mailbox or a walking path or near a road, anywhere that has activity.

Second, most birds and other animals are naturally attracted to red berries. Plant other cultivars with white, yellow or orange berries.

Many plants with colorful winter season fruits and berries will thrive here. Fruiting trees and shrubs provide an incredible array of possibilities to add interest to the landscape. Cut a few twigs and branches and bring the beauty indoors to decorate your Thanksgiving holiday table.

Wanda Cannon serves as Master Gardener coordinator and horticulture assistant for the UGA Cooperative Extension office in Hall County. Contact her at 770-535-8293 or wcannon@hallcounty.org. Her column appears biweekly and on gainesvilletimes.com/life.


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