Garden & Landscape Tips

Snippings of berried branches are ideal additions to fall floral arrangements, and they make lovely trim for trees, wreathes and holiday swags. But most important is their role as a late-season food source for birds.

Plenty of great “berried treasures” make nice landscape plants in much of the United States. Here are eight worth getting to know this fall:

  • winterberry holly
    A winterberry holly fruiting in October
    © George Weigel

    Winterberry holly: This leaf-dropping holly is the Cadillac of fall-fruiters. When pollinated by a suitable male bush, female winterberries grow bright-red or bright-orange pea-sized berries all along the branches. The smooth leaves turn golden-yellow before dropping, making the berries even more noticeable through much of winter before birds finally snatch them.

  • Evergreen hollies: The spiny-leafed evergreen hollies are no slouch either in the berry department. Native American hollies and blue hollies are reliable performers in colder zones, while English, Chinese and red hollies are staples in warmer climes. As with winterberry hollies, females do the fruiting when pollinated by a nearby holly.

  • Beautyberry: Few people know this flowering shrub, but just about everyone falls in love with the unusual metallic-lavender, BB-sized fruits once they see them. Beautyberries are self-fruiters that have an arching habit and tiny pink flowers in summer. Both native and Asian forms are available.

  • beautyberry
    Beautyberry fruits
    © George Weigel

    Viburnum: As with hollies, this whole family is noted for their terrific fall fruits. Depending on the species, you can have red, pink, dark blue, gold or blue/black fruits. Some fruit reasonably well when planted singularly, but all perform best when several species and varieties are planted throughout a yard. Many are shade-tolerant, too.

  • Dogwood: The good old Native American dogwood tree is not only beautiful when flowering in spring – it puts out bright red berries in fall. The Asian-origin Kousa dogwood gets unusual bumpy marble-sized fruits that turn red in fall, plus bark that peels to leave a Dalmatian-dog look.

    The bright red cranberry-like fruits of the cornelian cherry dogwood also are showy – as well as edible – and the pagoda dogwood produces interesting dark blue/black fruits.

  • bayberry
    The waxy blue/gray fruits of northern bayberry
    © George Weigel

    Northern bayberry: Although this native shrub has been used since Colonial times for candle-making, few people plant bayberries in the landscape. Females produce blue/gray waxy berries, and the leaves are gray/green with yellow fall foliage. Bayberries also are tolerant of less than ideal soil and even tolerate salty soil better than most.

  • Juniper: This family of needled evergreens comes in a variety of shapes, forms, sizes and needle colors, including blue and gold. Many types develop showy bluish cones that look like waxy berries. For people, they make nice holiday decorations and add landscape color. For several bird species the cones are prized winter snacks.

  • St. Johnswort: These low, arching shrubs flower yellow in summer and then develop red, red-orange or nearly black pea-sized fruits late summer through fall. Some types have such showy fruit that they’ve been bred for the cut-flower industry. For weeks, the flowers and fruits occur at the same time. Several varieties even have variegated foliage to add to the show.

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