Fruits and berries in October


A year ago there were abundant juicy red fruits on the Chinese dogwood (Cornus kousa) along the southern border of the garden, but this year there are none. Four other Chinese dogwoods have never had a single fruit, two because they are heavily shaded (I suppose), and the others for whatever reason that is beyond my comprehension.

The fruits are large and red, similar in shape and size to a strawberry, and the Chinese dogwood is frequently listed as a tree for the edible garden. I once saw an aged dogwood loaded with several dozen fruits in a sun baked nursery field in Tennessee, but most often trees that I see have a few handfuls, at best. The fruits must be quite tasty to birds, or whatever wildlife it is that snatches them quickly upon ripening, but when I split one open the unappetizing looking mush dissuaded me from sampling it.

In any case, though the dogwood bloomed heavily in late May, there are no fruits this year. As far as I know, there is nothing that the gardener can do to encourage them, and it is likely that the lack of fruit can be attributed to some weather event that closely followed the tree’s flowering. Maybe next year.

The native dogwoods (Cornus florida, below) have plenty of glossy red berries, though as soon as the leaves drop the birds make short work of them. The berries are much smaller than Chinese dogwood’s, and they are carried in small clusters (usually two to five).

The large berry clusters of Nandina domestica (below) grow at the tips of each branch, and are often so heavy that branches arch under their weight. In mid October some berries remain green, though others are already a brilliant red. Some references state that the berries are favored by birds, but very few are eaten through the winter on ten or twelve large shrubs in my garden. So, either the berries are not as appetizing as claimed, or there are the wrong types of birds in my garden.

Cultivars of nandina in my garden have far fewer berries, so that they are rarely noticed, and I suspect that some have no berries at all.

The fruits of roses are rose hips (above), and their abundance varies by variety. Many of the rose hips have ripened to red now, and few will make it through the winter and not be snatched by birds, squirrels, rabbits, and rodents. 

I have planted a variety of American, Chinese, English, and hybrid hollies in the garden, and most are heavily laden with berries this autumn. Many are still green (Koehneana holly, above), but others have ripened to red (a hybrid holly, below), and through the winter these will slowly disappear as birds eat them.

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