By Mark Hoskins, Nursery Supervisor at Thorngrove
As we move into autumn and the days grow shorter and darker, one of the best ways to bring some colour and cheer into our gardens is to plant trees and shrubs which have colourful berries.
These come in a range of colours, often last well into the winter, and have the added bonus of being a great source of food for wildlife.
Cotoneasters are some of the most versatile berrying shrubs. They can be low-growing ground covers like Cotoneaster “Juliette” which has variegated leaves and red berries, dwarf shrubs such as C. microphyllus, and scramblers like C. horizontalis which can be trained up a wall.
There are even tree Cotoneasters: C. watereri and C. rothschildianus are elegant evergreen trees, watereri has red berries, rothschildianus has creamy yellow fruit. Deciduous Cotoneasters provide some added colour with leaves turning bright red in the autumn.
Another multi-use plant with masses of berries is the Pyracantha. They can be grown as a free-standing specimen shrub, trained on a wall or planted as hedge, where their wicked thorns make an impenetrable barrier to keep out unwanted animals or intruders. The berries can be yellow, orange or red. Pyracantha “Soleil D’Or” is a lovely yellow and P. “Saphyr Cadange” has fiery orange fruits.
Berries don’t need to be red or yellow. For a really unusual colour try Callicarpa bodnieri “Profusion”. It has clusters of bright mauve berries which birds don’t like, so they persist on the plant into January. Plant in groups of three to ensure pollination.
Another good choice something a bit different are the snowberries (Symphoricarpos). Traditionally, they have large white berries the size of marbles, but come in shades of pink and purple too. The newer varieties like S. “Magical Sweet” and S. “Magical Candy” stay compact and don’t sucker which was a problem with the older varieties.
For a specimen tree that gives you great autumn colour from berries and leaves, you can’t beat the Sorbus (Mountain Ash or Rowan). Neat and compact enough for most gardens, their dainty foliage doesn’t cast deep shade and turns fiery shades of red and orange in the autumn.
The berries come in a great range of colours. S. cashmeriana has large white berries, S. vilmorinii produces clusters of pink fruit. For a yellow berry choose S. “Joseph Rock”, and for the traditional orange-red berries of the Rowan choose S. aucuparia. Blackbirds love these and will perform acrobatics to get them!