Ornamental berries are sources of color for the fall and winter landscape. 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 months. 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: black, white, purple, blue, red and orange. Hollies, pyracantha and nandina are great for color in the landscape and in holiday decorations.
Hollies are a very diverse group. Hollies can be evergreen or deciduous. There are varieties of hollies that range in height from 1 to 50 feet. One of the more common uses of hollies in the landscape is as a foundation planting. The taller varieties, however, are used as screens. Evergreen hollies are a great choice for berry color. The dark green foliage color provides a perfect backdrop for the bright red berries.
One example of an evergreen is the Chinese holly, Ilex cornuta. One of the heaviest berry producers in the Chinese holly family is the Burford hollywhich will grow to 20 feet tall. It’s a vigorous, upright grower that is often used as an evergreen hedge or an individual plant, a specimen, in the landscape. The Burford holly also comes in a dwarf form that will grow to about 8 feet tall. The dwarf Burford 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 produce an abundance of berries and both add seasonal interest during the winter months.
Another great berry producer 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 in height. Its height places this holly in the tree category. It has glossy, dark-green, leathery leaves. It can be shaped into a spreading, semiformal canopy or encouraged to grow vertically as a specimen. There are also a few deciduous hollies that have colorful berries. Ilex decidua (Possumhaw holly) 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, which makes it another great addition for winter color.
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 be sprawling. This plant works well when espaliered on a wall or trellis.
These plants have large thorns and require pruning several times a year. These are factors which must be considered before planting a pyracantha in the landscape.
Nandinas are plants native to Asia that are usually 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. However, it is currently classified as an invasive species in Georgia, and its use is generally discouraged. If Nandina is planted in the landscape, take special care to ensure the plant does not spread outside the intended portion of the landscape.
The winter landscape is often drab, but it can be given new life by incorporating a few of these plants. They can also warm up holiday decorations around the home or business. Whether it is adding these berry-producing plants to the landscape or a few of their branches to a vase, they are a great option for color.