A Berry Happy New Year from Form and Foliage!

By Sara Malone
California buckthorn (Rhamnus californica)
California buckthorn (Rhamnus californica)


The solstice has passed and the new year is upon us. This is supposedly the drabbest, dreariest time in the garden. To disabuse all of the belief that that must be so, we present a gallery of berries to enjoy as we wave farewell to the old year and welcome the new.

Malus
crabapple, Malus
Berberis wilsoniae, Berberis wilsonii, ornamental berries

The genus Berberis, or barberry, has some of the most ornamental berries of any group of plants. From the subtle tones of the Wilson's barberry pictured above, to much larger, robust fruit on our native California Berberis aquifolium, these plants decorate the winter landscape. When lacquered by raindrops even the berries of the most common species, Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii), are strikingly beautiful. (note: Japanese barberry is invasive in many areas. Seek sterile cultivars if you wish to add this plant to your landscape.)

American barberry, foliage gardening, ornamental berries

The berries of Berberis aquifolium (formerly Mahonia aquifolium

Berberis thunbergii, berries, foliage gardening

Berries are a great way of adding purple to your fall and winter garden, and there are a variety of trees and shrubs that bear berries of regal hues.

Chilean myrtle, foliage gardening

Luma apiculata

'Profusion' beautyberry

For purple punch, though, it's hard to beat beautyberry! (This specimen is Callicarpa bodinieri var. giraldi

foliage gardening, evergreen plants

California native Heteromeles arbutifolia

ornamental berries, foliage gardening

Cotoneaster

foliage gardening, ornamental berries

Cotoneaster buxifolius

foliage gardening

Sarcococca ruscifolia

Nandina domestica is overplanted, and paradoxically, under-appreciated. Try the 'Compacta' version for a more manageably-sized shrub. The cultivars with dramatic foliage generally do not bear fruit, so go with the old standby for winter berry interest.

Heavenly bamboo

Berries on Nandina domestica

And of course we cannot leave out the traditional holiday berry, the holly! There are many kinds of holly, most with red berries, but some have golden or yellow fruit. Some even have variegated leaves.

Ilex, foliage gardening

So if your garden is dull on a winter's day, put 'berries' on your gardening shopping list for spring. We have a tendency to buy plants when they are in bloom and most of us don't visit nurseries during the off-season, so you need to think 'winter' even when you're shopping in April. You will be rewarded when December rolls around.

Here's to a berry wonderful 2016 from Form and Foliage!

(Note: some berries are poisonous to humans or certain animals. If you have concerns about children or pets, please read about any plants that you are considering.)

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