Every Blooming Thing: Giving thanks for nature's berried plants
We really should give a big thank you to Mother Nature for gifting us with such a variety of berried plants to choose from.
Everyone is probably familiar with the ever-popular pyracantha, which has super-red berries. It has a variety of landscape uses and can be grown in most cold-weather areas. If you have a fairly hard frost, it causes the berries to ferment. The fermented berries result in tipsy birds which fly around erratically and sometimes fall to the ground.
These plants need full sun and do best where soil is not always wet. Size can be easily controlled by pinching back or shortening long branches in the Spring, after they have berried. When you are ready to make wreaths or swags pyracantha makes a great first layer, along with some evergreen branches.
At this time of year, the berries of Holly have their day the spotlight. The Ilex leaves are prickly, but the berries make it worthwhile. These shrubs come in many different sizes, up to 50-foot trees. Usually you need one of each gender to get fruit.
Hollies are quite tolerant as to location, but so like it a little better in the sun. There are quite a few hybrids now so you can probably find one to suit wherever you are landscaping.
Another well-known red-berried plant is Nandina, sometimes called Heavenly Bamboo. Usually doesn't get much more than 6 feet tall, but can be kept short by pruning. The plants aren't too fussy about location, can take sun or shade. These shrubs are most useful for light, airy vertical effects or in a narrow, restricted area. There is also a variety, "Alba," which has white berries.
If you have Toyon on your property, you are a privileged person. It has bright orange berries which seem to glow in a drab winter landscape. They grow as dense shrubs 6 to l0 feet tall or can be multi-trunked.
Bees are attracted to the plant and the birds love the berries to the extent that they are forever planting Toyon in my flower beds. I have to get them out before they form a tap root or they will require a lot of effort. The Native Plant Society includes them in their sale if I can get some potted up for them.
If you are looking for different colored berries, you might be interested in the Purple Beautyberry, which has, ta-da, purple berries. There is a very pretty hybrid named "Early Amethyst."
Purple Beautyberry grows up to 4 feet tall, with a slightly greater spread. The branches are arching and bear pinkish to light purple flowers in summer, which mature into their light purple berries in the Fall. If you choose a spot with well-drained soil these plants should do well for you whether in full sun or partial shade.
Japanese barberry is a shrub with colorful berries, also. However it has some negative issues, such as thorns and the fact that they are invasive. Good hedge plant, though. Whichever of these colorful alternatives you choose I am sure you will have a lot to enjoy.
The Red Bluff Garden Club's next meeting will be at 1 p.m. Jan. 29 Chris Moats will be speaking on seed and veggies. The meeting will be held at 12889 Baker Road in Red Bluff.
Millie Zink is a member of the Red Bluff Garden Club, which is affiliated with National Garden Clubs Inc., California Garden Clubs Inc., Pacific Region and Cascade District.