Brighten up with berry-producing plants

Wednesday, December 1, 2004

One parameter that most gardeners want included in a landscape plan is winter color. Since we live in a temperate zone, we have to include evergreens such as yew, juniper, some viburnums, fir and spruce, to name a few. We can also include such broadleaf evergreens as holly, boxwood and abelia.

Today's gardeners not only want green in their winter landscape, but they also want other colors, such as red and orange. Fortunately many of these other colors are available to us here in the region.

You have probably seen Foster's holly in your neighborhood. These upright, pyramidal shrubs are often loaded with red berries. The contrast between the red berry and the green foliage reminds me of Christmas. In fact, if this plant needs to be pruned, I like to do it around Christmastime, in order to have some fresh greens to decorate with.

As in all holly, Foster's have both male and female plants. The female plants bear red berries, but for them to bear they need to be pollinated by a male. If you live in town, there are usually enough male plants in the area, so you don't have to plant one on your property. If you live in the country you may also want to get a male Foster's holly to plant near your female Foster's holly.

Other spreading hollies that do well in Southeast Missouri are the blue hollies. Some of these varieties include blue girl, blue princess and blue maid. As with the Foster's holly, blue holly develops red berries that really stand out in the background of green foliage. Blue holly was bred to be more cold hardy than other holly.

Another holly found commonly in the area is possumhaw. You have probably seen these deciduous (plants that lose their leaves in the winter) plants growing in fence rows. They have steel gray, smooth bark and show off bright red berries in the winter. Again since this is a holly, you need both a female and a male plant for berries to be produced.

If you like orange, plant some pyracantha around your landscape. These are deciduous plants that have thorns on them. Because of their fall and winter beauty, you can put up with the thorns on them. These plants are monoecious (have both male and female flowers on the same plant) so you don't have to worry about having two different plants to get berries.

Another evergreen that sports red to orange berries in the fall and winter is nandina. Like pyracantha, only one plant is needed for berry production. When I say evergreen, I mean the plant does not lose its leaves in the winter unless we have an extremely cold spell. Generally the leaves are green to lime green with some tinges of red to yellow to orange. In the fall, these plants will have leaves sporting a nice crimson red color. The actual color of the foliage depends upon which particular variety you purchase.

Just because it is cold outside doesn't mean that you have to have a drab brown or plain green landscape all winter long. There are some varieties of plants that you can include in your landscape to enhance its color and beauty even during January and February.

Send your gardening and landscape questions to Paul Schnare at P.O. Box 699, Cape Girardeau, Mo. 63702-0699 or by e-mail to news@semissourian.com.

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