Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Berry in Every Hue

Powell Gardens is filled with a bounty of berries in every hue! A second summer of moderate temperatures and regular rainfall has allowed the gardens' trees and shrubs to be ablaze with abundant autumn fruit. The vibrant colored berries are beautiful and add ornament to the garden but are really an advertisement for birds to eat them and thus disperse their seeds.

Winterberry Holly (Ilex verticillata 'Winter Red') leads the pack with screaming red berries in perfect contrast to its lustrous green leaves. Look for various varieties of this medium to large shrub planted throughout Powell Gardens from in front of the Gatehouse to around the Visitor Center Trolley Stop to Island, Rock & Waterfall and Perennial Gardens. Winterberries are a deciduous holly and can be a bush that appears to be abloom with red after their leaves drop. This shrub is a Missouri native too! Remember that all hollies are either male and female so be sure to plant compatible male and female cultivars to ensure fruit set in your garden. Plant the cultivar 'Southern Gentleman' to pollinate 'Winter Red'.

American native magnolias also show off their brilliant red "berries" from popsicle-like "cones". Here Louisiana Sweetbay (Magnolia virginiana 'Louisianica') touts its tempting fruit to be eaten by mockingbirds. Look for many sweetbay magnolias in fruit around the Visitor Center.

The Linden Viburnum (Viburnum dilatatum 'Catskill') shows mounded bunches of red fruit. This Asian shrub self sows east of here but has so far not been invasive at the gardens. It is best to plant two or more cultivars of Linden Viburnum to ensure good fruit set. We have a group of several Linden Viburnums south of the Visitor Center where they screen (help hide) the deliveries and staff parking lot.

Tea Viburnum (Viburnum setigerum) has fruit that is in a very nice vermillion "red-orange" stage now, but they will mature bright red. This large shrub can be seen along the trolley road across from our old Visitor Center. It is one of a few Viburnums that is self fertile so only one plant will set good fruit.

Brandywine Viburnum (Viburnum nudum 'Bulk') has copious amounts of fruit currently in a neat "pink" stage. You can see that a few berries are turning blue and one-by-one they all will mature blue. Look for Brandywine Viburnum near the trolley stop at the Perennial Garden. This viburnum also sets better fruit when another variety is planted nearby -- we have the sister cultivar 'Winterthur' to help for pollination in this planting.

Winterberry Euonymus (Euonymus bungeana) has gorgeous pink fruit now. This small tree from China also has a unique pale yellow fall color to compliment this show. The fruit are soon to "pop" and show their orange-red berries. This plant is related to our native Bittersweet but unlike bittersweet which is either male or female, this plant is self-fruitful. This is not an invasive species of Euonymus like the evergreen varieties. Look for this tree between the road to the chapel and the Rock and Waterfall trolley stop.

Teton Pyracantha (Pyracantha hybrid) is a disease resistant pyracantha with real orange berries for the fall landscape. Pyracantha is self-fruitful and this variety is disease resistant and sets good fruit each year for us. Look for it on the north side of the Visitor Center. We also have a couple pyracanthas at our entrance on 50 highway and often get asked what the orange "blooming" shrubs are there in the fall! Pyracantha are a dense, twiggy shrub with spines so be careful where you plant them -- they do make an inpenetrable hedge!

Winter Gold Winterberry Holly (Ilex verticillata) has fruit that are just starting to ripen their unique salmony orange. This cultivar can be seen near the trolley stop in the Rock & Waterfall Garden. Its pollinator is the cultivar 'Southern Gentleman' as it is just a branch sport of the Winter Red variety shown at the top of this blog.

I couldn't find many yellow berries just yet but the yellow-fruited Flowering-Quinces (Chaenomeles 'Jettrail' shown) are now ripe. The fruit of this shrub is underutilized as it has a great pleasant and spicy aroma and can be used as an air freshener. Those more handy in the kitchen can make a delicious preserve out of the fruit as we have done with all the Heartland Harvest Gardens' flowering-quince fruits. Plant several varieties to ensure good fruit set. Yellow 'Harvest Gold' Crabapples and 'Finch's Golden' Deciduous Holly/Possumhaw are two other good plants for yellow fall fruit at the gardens.

The fruit of the Rusty Blackhaw Viburnum (Viburnum rufidulum) are in a nice green stage right now but will begin to turn more pink then blue to black. This native large shrub/small tree can be seen along the walk from the Rock & Waterfall Garden to its trolley stop.

The darkening blue fruit of Arrowwood Viburnum (Viburnum dentatum) are still hanging on this native shrub. You must plant at least two varieties of this Missouri native shrub to ensure fruit set. This berry is a popular food of songbirds migrating through the area now.

The dazzling purple fruit of Early Amethyst Beautyberry (Callicarpa dichotoma) tempt the eye in the Rock & Waterfall Garden. This Plant of Merit is the only reliable species of beautyberry in our zone. After years of careful watching, this variety is also NOT invasive. I also really like the native beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) but it is found in the wild only as far north as a stone's throw into Missouri from Arkansas and did not even flower on this record cool summer at Powell Gardens or in my own yard.

Ok, I had to cheat to find a black berry now. The fruit inside the brown husks of the Golden Rain Trees (Koelreuteria paniculata) are like black beads. Golden Rain Tree can self sow into gardens and actually be a nuisance but it will only self-sow into rocky glades or road cuts in the wild. It would be invasive if you lived near a native glade where it would soon be a problematic, non-native species.

The clusters of brown "Chinese lantern-like fruit of the Golden Rain tree do create some ornamental interest--looking better in the mid summer when they are light green, aging to pink tones before drying brown in fall.

Local conifers have set unprecedented numbers of cones this year. The cute little cones of Serbian Spruce (Picea omorika) can be seen on near the Rock & Waterfall Trolley Stop.

And yes, there is a White-berried Beautyberry (Callicarpa dichotoma 'Albifructis') that is quite showy as a shrub in the Perennial Garden. The milky white berries are quite unique and will hold for quite awhile before aging ivory and yellowish in early winter.

The locally native and wild all around the edges of Powell Gardens, Roughleaf Dogwood (Cornus drummondii) is the premier bird migration fuel right now. This shrub is actually quite ornamental but does sucker into a tall thicket 15 feet tall and as wide as allowed to spread. Look for beautiful native masses of this shrub along our Byron Shutz Nature Trail. At my own house I let masses edge the wild woods and they are now alive with migrating birds scarfing up the fruit. The berries are high in fats for the birds so that they can make their migrations -- this also makes the berries drop and rot before winter if they are not eaten. If you want birds in your garden, you can't beat this plant!

The berries shown are mainly those that are colorful at Powell Gardens through autumn. This ornamental aspect of these plants greatly outlasts their brief bloom or fall color. Consider them to add autumn appeal in your own garden and attract a good array of birds as a bonus.

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