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Berries add color to winter landscape

Barrow to visit

Posted: December 16, 2012 - 1:10am

When people think of gardens in the fall, leaf color change is usually the first thing that comes to mind. As the leaves of deciduous trees and shrubs drop, certain plants will reveal clusters of brightly-colored berries.

Some evergreen plants produce ornamental berries during the fall. Many of these berries will stay on the plants into winter, which adds seasonal interest throughout the colder months.

Ornamental berries come in a variety of colors. Hollies, pyracantha and nandina are great options for fall berry color in the landscape and in holiday decorations. Hollies are a very diverse group and can be evergreen or deciduous. There are varieties of hollies that range from 1 to 50 feet tall.

Evergreen hollies are a great choice for berry color. The dark-green foliage provides a perfect backdrop for the bright-red berries. One example of an evergreen holly family is the Chinese holly, Ilex cornuta. One of the heavier berry producers in the Chinese holly family is the Burford holly. The Burford holly will grow 20 feet at maturity. It’s a vigorous, upright grower that is often used as an evergreen hedge or an individual “specimen” plant. It also comes in a dwarf form that will grow to about 8 feet tall. This holly is probably the most widely used. Its dense but layered form is perfect for a natural hedge or even as an edging plant for taller flowering shrubs. Both forms produce an abundance of berries and add seasonal interest during the winter months.

Another great berry-producing holly is the Nellie R. Stevens holly. This holly is a hybrid between Ilex aquifolium and Ilex cornuta. It’s fast-growing and will get 15 to 25 feet tall. Its height places this holly in the tree category. It has glossy, dark-green, leathery leaves. It can be either shaped into a spreading semiformal canopy or encouraged to grow vertical as a specimen.

There are also a few deciduous hollies that have colorful berries. Ilex decidua, Possumhaw holly, is a good example. This holly will form a small tree that is 6 to 10 feet high, but it can grow to 20 feet high. The bare winter branches of possumhaw trees can be full of light red, translucent berries.

Pyracantha, also known as firethorn, produces displays of bright red, orange or yellow fruit. The plant will have thick clusters of pea-size berries that stand out in the landscape. When the berries begin to ripen, the color mellows from green to shades of red, orange or yellow. These persist through winter and into early spring depending on climate and appetite of the local bird population. Some of these plants will grow upright and some will sprawl. This plant works well when espaliered on a wall or trellis. These plants have large thorns and require pruning several times a year.

Nandinas are native to Asia and usually are evergreen in the southern region of North America. An example of a berry-producing Nandina species is the Nandina domestica, or Heavenly Bamboo. Heavenly Bamboo grows in several tall canes with colorful berries. Nandina canes are often used for winter decorations. It is currently classified as an invasive species in Georgia, and its use is generally discouraged. If Nandina is planted, take special care to ensure the plant does not spread outside the intended portion of the landscape.

Barrow to visit

U.S. Rep. John Barrow is planning to visit Columbia County on Jan. 7 for his Rural Listening Tour.

All agricultural-related businesspeople are invited to discuss issues. Call the Columbia County Extension office at (706) 541-4011 if you would like to attend.

The time and place for the meeting will be announced later.

Tripp Williams, Columbia County’s agriculture and natural resource agent, can be reached at (706) 541-4011, or trippj@uga.edu.

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