In autumn the main interest in a garden is often provided by the berries and hips of trees, shrubs and roses. As we all go in search of ‘berried treasure’ there are a number of ways to fit this collection of wonderful plants into your garden.
If you’re stuck for space why not try including small berrying plants such as Gaultheria, Solanum (Winter Cherry), or Skimmia japonica with its unbeatable display of bright red berries in your pots and hanging baskets along with the usual violas, pansies and ivies. Small berry-bearing plants included in this year’s arrangements can be removed and planted out in the garden next spring if there’s room!
There is a rainbow of berry colours available if you have space for shrubs apart from the usual red, orange and yellow berries found on Pyracanthas, Ilex and Cotoneasters. Pyracantha is an ideal evergreen shrub to grow against a wall or fence and its thorny spines are a great choice for securing garden boundaries as well as proving valuable nesting sites for birds and has flowers that attract bees. Cotoneaster horizontalis makes an excellent choice if you need to cover a bank or low border. Birds such as blackbirds, thrushes and waxwings will love the berries, quickly stripping stems bare as they feed-up ready for winter. For something a bit different look for the bright purple berries of Callicarpa with Callicarpa bodninieri ‘Profusion’ being perhaps one of the best varieties to try. Viburnum davidii is one of the best small evergreen shrubs and offers ideal groundcover with large dark green leaves that provide a good background for its glorious blue/black autumn berries.
If space allows, many ornamental trees produce bright berries and fruits as well as good displays of autumn foliage colour. Two of the best families are Sorbus (Rowan) and Malus (Crab Apple), and both make ideal trees for small gardens. There are various forms of these trees for garden use. Crab Apples are a popular addition to a garden with their spring blossom providing early colour followed by showy crab apples in early autumn, and their colourful autumn foliage. They are considered to be one of the most reliable and easy trees for the average sized garden.
Even the smallest garden can provide a selection of foods for birds all year round. In autumn this becomes particularly important, as temperatures start to drop and feed becomes harder to find. ‘Berried treasure’ is a valuable food group for a wide range of species. Berries are particularly high in antioxidants, which are an important part of a bird’s diet, helping them to endure long periods of physical activity. Ilex (Holly) berries are often ripe by autumn, although birds such as thrushes and blackbirds don’t usually feed on them until late winter. (So there may be a few berries left for your Christmas arrangements).
In autumn ivy flowers will attract insects, which in turn provide food for robins and wrens, followed by black berries in the middle of winter that are devoured by everything from finches to starlings. Chaffinches, starlings and greenfinches enjoy the shiny clusters of haws that can stay on Hawthorns (Crataegus) until February or March.
Ideal for a limited space, as it’s a climber, honeysuckle (Lonicera) provides shelter and berries in autumn as food for thrushes and bullfinches. Roses with colourful hips such as Rosa rugose and Rosa canina can provide interest in the garden in the form of a hedge or in the border whilst their fruits are eaten by a variety of birds and can stay juicy until late winter.
With such a rich and diverse range of plants to choose from it really is possible to fill your gardens and borders with berried treasure this autumn!