Berries that brighten
Amateur Gardening|October 23, 2021
Add colour to your garden during autumn and winter with berries of various colours

Sorbus ‘Joseph Rock’ has amber-coloured berries

LIFE is full of compensations. For example, one of the compensations for having a garden next to a busy noisy road is that you can grow far better berrying shrubs and trees than can gardeners living in the peaceful bird-ridden countryside. Farming improvements are driving the birds into gardens by removing sheltering hedges and killing insect life and, alas, wild plants that provide fruits and seeds.

If you live on a road so busy that it frightens the birds, you can grow the rowans that, in the country, are often stripped of their berries as soon as they change colour. The native rowan or mountain ash, Sorbus aucuparia, with orange-red berries, can grow to 40ft (12m) tall. There is an improved form with bright-red berries called Kew hybrid (Sorbus x kewensis) and for small gardens ‘Nana’ (‘Fastigiata’), which grows to just 15ft (4.5m). S. americana, at 20ft (6m), is a wonderful sight in autumn when laden with scarlet fruits.

Birds prefer red berries to yellow, pink or white ones, so country dwellers can grow Sorbus ‘Joseph Rock’, which will attain a height of 20ft (6m) and has pale amber-colored berries that shine out from among autumn foliage of brilliant color. S. pseudohupehensis has greygreen leaves that colour well in autumn and white berries tinged with pink.

Ferny foliage

Another beautiful small tree is Sorbus vilmorinii. This 20ft (6m) tree has graceful arching branches with feathery leaves and rose-pink berries. One of the most exotic is a Himalayan species, S. aff. cashmiriana, with dark-green ferny foliage that changes to a good read and has clusters of very large white fruits. They go pinkish as they ripen and last for a long time after the leaves have fallen.

Cotoneasters vary. Some of them keep their berries far longer than others, and one of these is C. frigidus, a deciduous species with crimson berries. Forms resulting from crosses between C. frigidus and other species are as good or better. For example, C. salicifolius ‘Aldenhamensis’, a cross between C. frigidus and the evergreen C. salicifolius, keeps its berries for a very long time – sometimes until February’s cold spells.

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