2015-12-03 / Front Page

Vibrant Berries Add Pop to Winter Landscapes

By Cynthia Gibson

Sparkleberry Winterberry holly. Sparkleberry Winterberry holly. Trees that produce berries during the winter months provide a burst of color against the contrasting snow in your yard, and are attractive and appealing to birds as well.

Just because cold weather has arrived does not mean that it's too late to plant or transplant a small tree or shrub. You can still plant them before the final frost– as long as the ground is not yet frozen. And since it is cold, the soil stays damp, lessening the need for water. This is a perfect time for planting trees (keep in mind that they love full sun); their growth systems are readying for winter dormancy and their needs decrease. The roots will “sleep” and “wake up” next spring, already settled in the ground.

There are a number of good candidates for late fall planting. Excalibur is an excellent crabapple, with the best tiny apples. This is a dwarf crab that reaches a height of only eight to 10 feet; it produces a beautiful yellow fruit with a blush of red that makes it outstanding, both for your landscape and for the birds. The fruit will cling to the tree through December, giving your avian friends one cold month to feed from the tree.

Firethorn Firethorn Pink Princess is another option. Like Excalibur, it is naturally dwarfed and grows only to about eight feet tall. Throughout the fall and through December, it is simply loaded with burgundy-red, stunning fruit. Blue jays and cardinals love them.

The most beautiful of all berried shrubs and small trees is the Winterberry holly (Ilex verticillata). All of its varieties are spectacular. "Ilex," meaning holly, is almost a misnomer when it comes to this special shrub, as it drops its lobed, non-prickly leaves in the fall. Thick clusters of bright red berries remain. These trees decorate themselves for winter.

Winter Red Winter Red Like most holly shrubs, Winterberries are either male or female. You need one male shrub for six female shrubs; they are easily pollinated by wind and bees. Worthy of space in your yard, a plant can remain a shrub with pruning or grow into a 10-foot tree if left alone. The finest holly varieties are Sparkleberry, Winter Red, and Red Sprite. The birds will leave these berries alone, as it takes a couple of freezes and thaws to make them palatable.

An additional berried evergreen shrub that is easy to grow and adds a vibrant accent to your yard is Pyracantha, or Firethorn. Its berries are orangered, and the shrub is a favorite with landscapers. The orangered berries, which are like catnip for birds, grow in clusters. They also produce inch-long thorns, so approach with caution and gardening gloves when clipping branches for indoor d├ęcor or pruning.

If you are looking for a great pop of color to add to your landscape, consider these magnificent, berried shrubs, which are grown just for winter.

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