Berries aren’t just for the birds

Summer berries are a treat for the plate, but fall and winter berries are a feast for the eyes, and something to play with, too. Remember helping your preschooler make popcorn and cranberry garlands during the holiday season? As cranberries are available in full swing at present, one can easily relive those special memories if one so wishes.

From a gardener’s perspective, this is the time when brilliantly colored berries adorn our trees and shrubs, giving us a glimpse of the beauty of winter. Berry-laden hollies, particularly those that are deciduous, are truly a spectacular sight and a haven for the birds, providing then with a gourmet meal. Speaking of which, holly plants usually bear male or female flowers on separate plants; therefore, if growing them for the berries, do check the gender of the plants before purchasing.

Another berry-bearing shrub I am very fond of is the time-tested nandina, also known as the heavenly bamboo. Equipped with two much sought-after assets, rich, burgundy foliage in fall, followed by bright red berries that hang upside down on branches in grape-like clusters – nandinas are one of the most carefree, yet versatile landscape shrubs. In fact, as we are blessed with several healthy nandinas in our yard, branches of this lovely shrub find their way in all kinds of places in our home, especially during the holiday season.

So significant are the berries that many gardeners consider them with the same regard as flowers or the color of fall foliage when adding a tree or a shrub to the landscape.

However, to ensure ample berries in fall and winter, plants need to be healthy, properly fertilized and pruned in a timely fashion. Therefore, if in doubt about providing proper care, one can either refer to a comprehensive gardening book or call the Chesterfield Extension Office, where a friendly master gardener will gladly help.

Wreath makers and flower arrangers are perpetually on the lookout for greenery that bears berries to add a festive look to holiday decorations. Likewise, a few branches of holly, berries and all, give a special touch of color and warmth to any corner of a home, bringing the magic of winder indoors. Incidentally, since we do not have any holly bushes in our yard, the only choice I have is to beg from fellow gardeners who grow them. Almost everyone I have ever asked has always been more than happy to share with others.

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