When most folks think of gardens in the fall, leaf color change is usually the first thing that comes to mind.
Another aspect of fall and winter gardens that is often overlooked is ornamental berry production. As the leaves of deciduous trees and shrubs drop, certain plants will reveal their showy clusters of brightly-colored berries.
Many of these berries will stay on the plants long into winter, which adds seasonal interest throughout the colder months. Ornamental berries come in a variety of colors from blacks, whites, purples, blues, reds and oranges. Many of the shrubs that produce these berries have several different varieties available, allowing each gardener to pick the colors that suit them best. Here are some plants to consider for fall berry color in your garden.
Evergreen hollies are great choices for berry color. The dark green foliage color provides a perfect backdrop for the bright red berries.
Foster's holly and Burford holly are two that do well in Georgia.
Burford hollies are trees with a rounded form that reach 15-20 feet tall. Dwarf Burford hollies are also available and can reach up to 10 feet tall if left unmanaged. Many people use dwarf Burford hollies as a landscape hedge.
Foster's holly is a tree-form plant that has a pyramid-like growth form and has a mature height of up to 40 feet.
China hollies produce yellow berries which tend to stay on longer into the winter because birds tend to skip them over.
There are also a few deciduous hollies, winterberry and possumhaw, that have colorful berries. These need a male plant nearby for the female plants to set fruit.
The bare winter branches of possumhaw trees can be full of light red, translucent berries.
Winterberry, a multi-stemmed shrub, also produces large amounts of bright red berries.
Pyracantha, also known as firethorn, produces displays of bright red fruit. These can either be grown as a shrub or espaliered against a wall. These plants have large thorns, which makes them ideal for keeping unwanted visitors away from your house windows.
Beautyberry is a native shrub that produces large clusters of purple fruit at the ends of its stems. These are fairly low-growing shrubs with long, drooping branches. Because of their form, they are the perfect plant for a garden with a non-formal theme.
Beautyberries should be placed in full sun with good drainage. There are some cultivars available that produce stunning white fruit, but these berries quickly discolor and are usually only enjoyed for a short time.
Beautyberry growth can be rather wild, and they may need to be pruned in tighter areas of the garden. Pruning should be done in late winter. Beautyberries can benefit from either a light maintenance pruning or a more severe regenerative cut back.
Nandinas are plants native to Asia that are usually evergreen in our region. They grow in several tall canes with colorful berries.
Nandina canes are often used for winter decorations. They can grow in just about any garden situation. Another name for nandina is heavenly bamboo, and, as its name suggests, it has heavy growth qualities similar to bamboo. It is currently classified as an invasive species in Georgia, and its use is generally discouraged. This doesn't discourage many people from continuing to plant them. If you do plant nandina, keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn't spread out of its intended zone in your garden.
Clark MacAllister is the Dawson County extension agent. For more information, call (706)265-2442.