Berry happy

The white flowered dogwood (Cornus florida) in the front garden has suffered various maladies over recent decades, but none threaten its survival, it seems. While a number of galls are concerning, most disappointing is the annual leaf spotting and powdery mildew by mid-summer that deforms leaves and diminishes autumn leaf coloring.

White flowering dogwood

Spring flowering is not diminished, so it follows that the annual crop of red berries is much the same. The garden is not irrigated, and no fungicides or pesticides are applied other than an organic deer repellent, so leaf spots and whatever superficial blemishes are part of the garden to be observed, and sometimes to wonder why a caterpillar or beetle is missing this year. With our dependable summer humidity and rainfall, fungi rarely miss a year.

Red Sprite winterberry

Typically, I have no use for dwarf shrubs, preferring the full size versions to grow and occasionally to become nuisances when they out grow their designated spaces. But, I have noticed the heavy berry set of ‘Red Sprite’ winterberry hollies (Ilex verticillata ‘Red Sprite’, above) in other gardens, and how could I resist? An area along the garden’s forested border has become consistently damp in recent years, though there are also prominent surface roots from swamp maples (Acer rubrum) that have nearly choked out the thin lawn. This seemed a perfectly suited spot for the winterberries, and while the full sized shrub would work just as well here, there’s no better place to view the berries as I stroll the garden in autumn.

Sparkleberry holly
Yellow berried winterberry holly

A yellow berried winterberry (Berry Heavy Gold, above) should be a welcome addition once it grows above long established neighbors. This area is a mix of deciduous azaleas and hollies, with a large evergreen ‘Robin’ holly (below) in the background. I rarely give a forethought about anything I do, but I envision a time in just a few years when the late spring flowering and quite fragrant azaleas are followed by masses of red and yellow berries.

Robin holly grows with a leaf and growth habit similar to the common Nellie Stevens.
Dixie Star holly, a holly similar to Fosterii that was introduced but quickly disappeared from commerce.
There are no specified pollinators in the garden for Koehne holly (Ilex x koehneana) and other large, evergreen hollies, but all berry dependably. Most berries will remain until late winter, when robins return to the garden and strip the over ripe berries.
Christmas Jewel holly is a slower growing holly that stays slightly smaller than other large growing hollies.
The red berries of Rohdea japonica are clustered near the ground, below the strap-like leaves.
Berries of beautyberries (Callicarpa, above and below) persist after the leaves fade in the first freezes.
Nandina domestica is reviled as invasive, but birds rarely eat the alkaline berries so the only seedlings are from berries that roll downhill. Several nandina varieties rarely have a single berry, but the tall growing Nandina domestica has large clumps that ornament the shrubs until they turn black and drop in early spring.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. donpeters43 says:

    These berry bushes sure add a nice touch of color to the garden after the leaves have fallen, and the flowers are gone. I keep thinking I should plant more!

    1. Dave says:

      Without planning, an area along the driveway became home to a variety of red berried hollies, fragrant, deciduous azaleas in varied colors, and red, orange, and yellow winter flowering witch hazels. I finally noticed and have added a few more azaleas and two yellow berried winterberries so there is color through much of the year.

      1. donpeters43 says:

        Are the yellow winterberries the ones you showed in your posting?

  2. Dave says:

    Yes. Still small, but planted next to the male pollinator so there should be plenty of berries.

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