Berry Good

By Lauren Baumbauer

July 3, 2009 5 min read


Provide color for a winter garden and food for animals

Lauren Baumbauer

Creators News Service

The beautiful array of reds, purples and oranges from ornamental berries found in the cooler seasons are worth anticipating and enjoying. Juicy, plump and tasty in the spring and summer, it may come as a surprise to find them just as delightful in the fall and winter, but in different ways.

"The key to gardening, as a general rule, is to choose things that do best in your climate," advised Chip Tynan, manager of the horticulture answer service at the Missouri Botanical Gardens in St. Louis. This may seem hard to keep in mind during the colder months, as "most edible berries are summer bearing," said Tynan.

Berries are really seeds, so many of these berry-bearing shrubs and trees produce flowers first. Then the seeds drop off and reproduce.

There are plenty of uses and reasons to grow them even in the fall and winter. "Berries are a great food source for wildlife," said Joe Lamp'l, host of's gardening videos.

Not only are a lot of them edible for animals, but due to their fall colors they're excellent for ornamental purposes. "They're great to have in your landscape when things are winding down at the end of the year," Lamp'l added. The splash of color on a shrub under your window or in a tree in your yard adds a different element to the appearance of your home.

Tynan recommended the well-known holly as a prime berry to develop because they last well into winter. "Some are consumed by birds and some are merely ornamental," Tynan said. "Evergreen or deciduous hollies are not usually for wildlife to eat, so they serve as more ornamental."

Sometimes called Christmas berry or winter holly, these bright red berries are often cut off and put into wreaths to decorate homes during the winter holiday season. There are also several evergreen hollies that expand beyond the traditional red color, such as yellow and green.

However, to really spice up the winter colors and give new flair to dry arrangements, some other varieties add more exotic excitement. Lamp'l suggested different types of callicarpa, also known as beautyberries.

Originating from shrubs, beautyberries live up to their name and range in many colors, including purple, magenta and white. "They're native to the southeast, but they grow north as well," said Lamp'l. "The berries come as fall leaves come off, so there are just berries."

Nandina domestica, also called heavenly bamboo, is another ornamental evergreen shrub Lamp'l recommended, especially for interiorscapes. Beautiful, lacy leaves develop reddish and goldish colors with red berries. Different varieties of this shrub traverse the country.

For a breathtaking sight against the right backdrop, pyracantha, known as firethorn, is an evergreen shrub usually grown against walls in front of houses with bright red or orange berries.

Not only are firethorns beautiful, they're practical, too. "Pyracantha have lots of thorns, so they make a good security system in front of the house, but be careful with children," Lamp'l said.

Hawthorne trees, or different types of crataegus, are also pretty with dark red berries, but, like pyracantha, they also have thorns. They're a great food source for birds, though, and the thorns protect the birds from predators. White flowers bloom from the hawthorne in the springtime, so it is a yearlong source of beauty.

Another tree berry is the armelanchier, commonly called the serviceberry. This tree also flowers in the spring with white flowers and has apple-shaped, red berries in the fall that, according to Lamp'l, may be eaten.

"Dogwoods also produce edible fruits," Tynan said, speaking of many varieties of trees and shrubs in the cornaceae family found across the United States. However, the bright red berries that come with dogwoods are usually toxic to humans, but edible for animals. They are pretty encased in ice hanging off a tree or against a snowy backdrop.

A plethora of berries, from trees or shrubs, exist across the country in the fall and winter and have amazing colors. It makes the fall and winter a great time to make an opportunity to add something berry beautiful to your life.

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