Berried trees and shrubs delight on many levels, including tasty, edible fruit for humans along with wildlife essentials such as shelter, nesting sties, and food sources to span the seasons. But after the leaves have turned color and fallen, the welcomed hues of the spring, summer, and fall garden often plummet as well.
Berries that bring new color and energy to the winter landscape are a great way to break up that monotone of greens and browns that often predominate in our Pacific Northwest gardens. And whether by way of their foliage, flowers or bark, most of these winter-berried plants, trees, and shrubs continue on with an ever-changing display of color and texture throughout the growing season. That said, between the winter show and wildlife appeal their presence is as equally rewarding as the berried display is breathtaking.
Now is the time to start thinking ahead and invest in your winter landscape for the garden season to come by growing one or several of these eight berried treasures that follow.
American Cranberry Bush Viburnum (Viburnum trilobum); Zones 2 - 8
Showy, flat-topped white flowerheads and colorful autumn foliage make this stellar North American native a standout for its ornamental appeal. However, the starring attractions in colder months are its sparkling scarlet edible berries that hold into winter. What's more, the berries are among the longest lasting color of the fruiting viburnum family.
Growing tip: Grow in part shade in moderately fertile, moist soil. Longest-lived in moist well-drained soils.
Beautyberry (Callicarpa); Zones 6 - 10
This group of graceful shrubs delights on many levels, with low-maintenance care, wildlife appeal and colorful fall foliage. The real attraction, however, is the long-tasting display of brilliant ruby violet to purple berries. The berries of some species -- such as American beautyberry (C. americana) and 'Profusion' beautyberry (C. bodinieri var giraldii 'Profusion') --even persist well into winter.
Growing tip: Best in full sun or light shade in moderate to moist well-drained soil. The flowers and fruit are produced on the current season's growth, so prune in late winter to early spring by removing a third of the stems, or by cutting back the entire plant low to the ground.
This cranberry cotoneaster (Cotoneaster apiculatus) grows great in cold winter climates, with striking red berries especially noticeable on bare branches due to its deciduous nature.Rick Wetherbee Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster spp.); Zones 3 - 11
There are about 200 species of evergreen, semi-evergreen, or deciduous shrubs and trees growing from 1 to 30 feet tall. Most bear their bountiful yellow, orange, or red berries in autumn, with some persisting well into winter. Among those with winter interest, cranberry cotoneaster (C. apiculatus) grows 3 feet tall by 6 feet wide, with clustered red fruits the size of cranberries. Cotoneaster 'Hybridus Pendulus' makes for a decorative display of berries resembling a red waterfall of color in winter. Birds generally avoid the fruit of Cotoneaster lacteus, so the mass of berries persist on the plant throughout winter.
Growing tip: Best in sun (deciduous species) to partial shade in moderately fertile, well drained soil with little to moderate moisture. They especially thrive on dry slopes.
Firethorn (Pyracantha); Zones 6 - 9
Fast growth and thick clusters of brilliantly colored berries of red, orange or yellow make this group of evergreen to semi-evergreen shrubs a prime pick in most winter gardens. Scarlet firethorn (P. coccinea) and hybrid selections such as 'Apache,' 'Fiery Cascade,' 'Mohave' and 'Victory' are your best choices for berries that persist into late winter.
Growing tip: Choose disease-tolerant varieties in scab and fireblight-prone areas; berry production is heaviest when allowed to grow naturally with minimal pruning.
Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.); Zones 5 - 10
These typically multitrunked deciduous trees with thorny branches boast a bountiful supply of bird-attracting berries. Prime picks for showy red fruits that last all winter include Carriere hawthorn (C. x lavallei), Washington hawthorn (C. phaenopyrum), green hawthorn (C. viridis), and 'Autumn Glory' hawthorn (C. 'Autumn Glory').
Growing tip: Best in full sun and moderately moist soil; attracts many birds, including hummingbirds, as well as several species of butterflies.
Holly (Ilex); Zones 4 - 9
With more than 400 species of mostly evergreen trees and shrubs ranging in height from 3 to 50 feet tall, options abound. Many species and cultivars feature berried treasures in yellow, orange, red or black that often hold on until early spring, such as the blue holly (Ilex x meserveae "Blue Princess" or "Blue Girl").
Deciduous divas like winterberry (I. verticillata) and sparkleberry (I. 'Sparkleberry') really wow with an abundant winter display of orange-red to vivid red berries that bring colorful ornamentation to bare branches. These tough and easy-to-grow shrubs are especially striking when planted in masses.
Growing tip: Most hollies thrive in our region's acidic soils and damp, cloudy winters; both male and female plants are needed for berry production.
Showcase Japanese skimmia (Skimmia japonica) beside shaded walks, as an edging for borders, flanking entryways, or even in containers.Rick Wetherbee Japanese Skimmia (Skimmia japonica); Zones 6 - 9
These attractive, mounded, evergreen shrubs feature clusters of fragrant white flowers followed by a stunning winter display of hollylike red berries at the branch tips. Make room for a male plant as you will need at least one growing nearby to ensure female pollination and resulting berry production.
Growing tip: Best in partial shade and acidic soil that is moist and well-drained and enriched with plenty of organic matter.
Red Chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia); Zones 4 - 9
Noted for its bright red fall foliage followed by highly decorative clusters of vibrant red berries that persist well into winter. Ornamental appeal notwithstanding, the edible berries are also enjoyed by birds and humans alike.
Growing tip: Though highly tolerant to many soils, they grow best in full sun or light shade and well-drained, moist soil.
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