Berry Good

One of the things I enjoy most about the fall is the ripening of berries on many of my shrubs.  Like fine jewels, these berries adorn my plants, adding color and interest to the garden as well as a food source for my feathered friends.  I love how the berries extend the season and cause you to stop and admire the fashion statement they are making.  Mother Nature seems to know that we need a reason to pause this time of year, to take in all the garden has to offer before it goes to sleep for another winter. 

Callicarpa dichotoma ‘Early Amethyst’ or Beautyberry is one of my all-time favorite shrubs.  My Callicarpa is not very impressive early in the season when I hack it back to within a foot or two from the ground.  But this hard pruning encourages heavy flowering and fruiting in the fall.  Like an ugly duckling that becomes a swan, Callicarpa grows from sticks into an elegant and sprawling 5 foot tall and 7 foot wide shrub that steals the show in the fall when its pale pink flowers magically become magenta berries.  The contrast of the bright green foliage against the berries is a definite show stopper.  Much to my surprise, Mother Nature rewarded me recently by planting a white-berried form of Callicarpa at the end of my driveway. Thank you Ma’am!

Callicarpa dichotoma ‘Early Amethyst’

My white Callicarpa planted by Mother Nature

A couple years back I planted two different cultivars of Viburnum nudum – Winterthur and Brandywine.  While my shrubs are still young and relatively small, this year the cross pollination resulted in a nice show of pink and blue berries, combined on a single cluster. I can hardly wait for my shrubs to mature.  I’m confident I’ll be wowed by the multi-colored berry clusters that will dangle on my shrubs like treasured Christmas ornaments collected over the years.

Viburnum nudum berries

Another wonderful berry producer is Ilex verticillata, commonly known as Winterberry.  Ilex verticillata requires that boys and girls meet up in order for berries to be present.  I have a ‘Southern Gentleman’ planted behind five ‘Winter Red’ girls.  Apparently one male can pollinate up to seven females.  Despite not getting the consistently moist soil and lots of sun they prefer, my winterberry are loaded with berries, at least until the birds consume them all.

Winterberry Holly berries

Yet another berry producer is Skimmia japonica.  Like the Ilex verticillata, Skimmia is dioecious, meaning you have to have male and female plants in order to produce fruit.  My group of guys and gals is located in a shady corner of the garden where the evergreen leaves contrast nicely with the red fruit. 

Skimmia japonica fruit


Viburnum x juddii is known for is intoxicatingly fragrant flowers in early spring, but these lovely flowers form berry-like drupes which ripen from red to black from late summer to early fall.  I enjoy the multi-season interest this shrub provides.
Viburnum juddii fruit
I hope you’ll consider adding some berry good plants to your garden.  They will reward you with years of enjoyment and help you to appreciate the fall season even more.    

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