As I write today, a distinct chill has come into the air - a reminder that Winter is on it's way, soon it will be December, and our minds will be on all things festive - have no doubt I'll be blogging about the virtues of live plants as decorations and gifts over this period.... after all, nothing can beat a real tree at Christmas with the fresh pine fragrance and the nostalgic feelings they can conjure up - no matter how much glitter and tinsel you have, you can't beat that - or come close with a fake tree...... but less of that, for now....
As Autumn draws to a close, there are still some stars out there in the plants around the nursery and garden. These good doer's have been at it for week already, and are looking BERRY BEAUTIFUL, as I like to call it, berry beautiful indeed; festooned in coloured jewels, shimmering like rubies and diamonds in the weak sunshine. You would be forgiven if I have you a little confused at this point, for I am waxing lyrical about those plants that are covered in berries at this time of year. We of course have the usual suspects, like the Pyracanthas, "soleil d'or" is covered in golden berries whilst others like "Red Column" stand out like a belisha beacon in a mixed hedge row with their brightest of scarlet fruits. I think it must be a bumper year for pyracantha this year, perhaps you have found the same in your garden?, or after seeing them all around want to try some yourself? The good thing with these is that they are evergreens so will add some lovely winter structure to the shrub border, as well as some nice white blooms in late spring time - it is these that later give us the colour parade of berries. Not only this, but they are a veritable wild life habitat in themselves - providing food through the year for birds and insects, as well as providing a favourite nesting site for birds. The song thrush really appreciates a large one of these to bring up a family in. If you're into hedge rows, they are great, especially in urban areas as they tolerate pollution with ease, and any would-be burglar confronted with a thick Pyracantha hedge will certainly think twice - useless rather strange, with a liking for being impaled on spiky thorns that is!
Enough of that usual suspect and on to a couple of others - the female Skimmia reevesiana has masses of Red berries right now, and compliments the male Skimmia Rubella perfectly, which is in bud right now and all through the winter until spring. The black birds have taken a particular liking to these this year - so I suspect most of these red globes will be gone before the soltice. The rare Skimmia Kew White also has a mass of berries, but they are less visible than those of the red varieties, so here's hoping they last a little longer.
Hinting at the festive period again, we also have holly putting on a good show.... I don't think you can beat a traditional green variety like "J C van Tol", which always reliably produces a nice crop. The variegated Hollies are also good, but I just like these. . . . if you have woods near by, there may be mature holly trees of traditional prickly Ilex aquifolium, these can get very large, and act as a magnet in the Autumn and Winter months to all bird species as the berries ripen to the familiar red shades. Even wood pigeons will descend if there regular food sources are covered by a dusting of snow. With snow mentioned, we better move on to two more unusual berry plants - before we get all festive and nostalgic again with the white stuff mentioned!
The unusual Callicarpa or Beauty berry as it is commonly called should certainly be grown more often. This deciduous bushy shrub seems to be little known by many gardeners, but it is a valuable addition for the display of fruit at this time of year - in a striking aubergine-purple colour! For the best and heaviest crops of fruit it is best grown in groups for cross pollination between plants. Other than posting a picture and letting you make your own mind up if you like the berry display or not, I'm saying nothing more on this one, apart from the distinct berry colouration reminds me on the foil on a popular and well know brand of milk chocolate - I think you'll agree with that one.
THERE IS FAR TO MUCH FOR ONE POST ALONE, SO THIS ARTICLE IS TO BE CONTINUED . . . . . (also reedited, refined and re tuned, soon)