Berries for Fall

Callicarpa dichotoma 'Early Amethyst'‘Early Amethyst’ beautyberry, Callicarpa dichotoma

For fall and winter ornamental interest, you can’t beat berries.  They are incredibly showy and last much longer than flowers.  They attract birds to my garden when they come in flocks to feast on the bounty—sometimes sooner than I would like.  And this year seems to be the best year ever for fruit production.  All my berry producing plants are loaded.  Is it because of all the rain we had this summer?  Or does it portend a hard winter like the presence of lots of acorns?  Who knows, but I am enjoying them and want to share some of my favorites with you.

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Ilex verticillata 'Red Sprite'‘Red Sprite’ winterberry holly, Ilex verticillata

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Ilex verticillata 'Red Sprite''‘Red Sprite’

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Winterberry holly is a must for fall interest.  It is a native deciduous holly that grows in sun to part shade and is salt and wet site tolerant.  Just remember that like all hollies, it requires a male and female plant to produce fruit.  ‘Red Sprite’ is more compact than most winterberries at five feet tall and four feet wide, it never needs pruning.  My plants drape down over the wall of one of my terraces and are stunning this time of year.  ‘Red Sprite’ produces more profusely than most winterberries, and its berries are larger and very showy.  Unfortunately the robins know this too, and they sweep in and strip the bush in one day.

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Callicarpa dichotoma 'Early Amethyst'‘Early Amethyst’ beautyberry

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Callicarpa dichotoma 'Early Amethyst'The fruit clusters of Callicarpa dichotoma, an Asian native, are held away from the branch on a stalk, whereas the fruit of C. americana (photo below) surrounds the branch.

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The fruit of beautyberries, both native and non-native, is such a striking purple color that it stops people in their tracks.  I have written about ‘Early Amethyst’ before in Woody Plants for Shade Part 3 so you can go there for all the details.  ‘Early Amethyst’ is a much more fine-textured plant than the American native and fits well in a mixed border.  In the last few years, I have cut my plants back to 12 to 24″ in the spring, and they have grown back to produce a 5 to 6′ plant with a beautiful habit (see top photo).

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Begonia grandishardy begonia, B. grandis

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Begonia grandishardy begonia

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No, hardy begonias do not produce fruit.  But the persistent seed pods and pink stems remain quite ornamental after the flowers drop off.  They decorate my whole back hillside.  For more information on hardy begonias, read this post Hardy Begonias for Fall Color.

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Crataegus viridis 'Winter King'‘Winter King’ green hawthorn, Crataegus viridis

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Cratageus viridis 'Winter King'‘Winter King’ hawthorn

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I have had my ‘Winter King’ hawthorn for over 15 years, and it has never produced like this.  It has a prime position outside my living room windows, and the view is amazing.  Green hawthorn is a native plant adaptable to many locations and soil types.  ‘Winter King’ is said to reach 30′ tall and 25′ wide in sun to part sun, although my mature plant is smaller.  In the spring, fluffy white flowers cover the tree, and its silver bark is also attractive.  ‘Winter King’ is a Pennsylvania Horticultural Society gold medal plant.  For more information, read the PHS write up.

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Callicarpa americanaAmerican beautyberry, Callicarpa americana, it is difficult to get a good distance shot of the fruit when the leaves are still on.  However, they will drop shortly and the berries will persist.

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Callicarpa americanaThe fruit of American beautyberry surrounds the branch.

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I have been looking for American beautyberry to add to my garden for almost 20 years and just installed three shrubs last fall.  Although I have the Asian variety and like it, there is something about the color (blackberry purple?) and placement of the larger berries on the American variety that I find more attractive.  As with a lot of North American plants, it is less refined and bigger than its Asian counterpart so not suitable for a mixed border.  For more information, go to Woody Plants for Shade Part 9.

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Symphoricarpos x doorenbosii Amethyst‘Amethyst’ coral berry, Symphoricarpos x doorenbosii, I must have taken 25 photos in an attempt to show you how beautiful this shrub is even from a distance but could not get one that does it justice.

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Symphoricarpos x doorenbosii 'Amethyst'‘Amethyst’ coral berry

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New to me this fall, ‘Amethyst’ coral berry has everything I am looking for in a shrub.  It is a cross between two Pennsylvania native shrubs, and it grows to 3 to 5′ tall with a similar spread in part shade but is full shade tolerant.  It is deer resistant and the gorgeous and unusual bright pink berries are attractive to birds.  For more information, go to Woody Plants for Shade Part 9.

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I have highlighted just a few of the plants that are making my fall garden as enjoyable as my spring display.  Enjoy the remaining warm days of fall and pray for rain.  Meanwhile, all new plantings and drought susceptible established plants should be watered deeply twice a week.

Carolyn

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Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, U.S., zone 6b. The only plants that we mail order are snowdrops and miniature hostas and only within the US.

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44 Responses to “Berries for Fall”

  1. Hello Carolyn,
    Beautiful photos of berry laden trees and bushes, and I love the Hardy Begonia. As for praying for rain, I wish you well – a pity we don’t have a transatlantic pipeline – we’ve just had the wettest week of the whole year here …
    Best wishes
    Julian

    • Julian, Glad you liked the berries. It is rare for us to have a drought in the fall. In fact, I usually wait to open my nursery until it starts raining. This year we were 3″ behind for September and most of the rain we got in October was too little at a time to be effective. The ground is very dry. Carolyn

  2. nwphillygardner Says:

    Hi Carolyn,
    Do you have Rabdosia longituba in your garden? It’s another late fall bloomer that gets started in mid-October with airy little flowers that form a blue haze in the shade garden. The plant is nearly four feet tall and stays reasonable erect. I’ve heard it called the tube socks plant for the shape of its tiny, long blossoms. I’d love to find more of these since that “haze” effect deserves to be part of a drift rather than a single specimen. It’s been satisfyingly paired with Japanese anemone ‘Honorine Joubert’ which gets a late start in the shady spot that both share in my garden.

  3. Beverly, zone 6, eastern PA Says:

    I have grown both Callicarpas for several years. My Early Amethyst is lower , flatter, wider and has many more branches than its American counterpart. Robins and Mockingbirds are showing up regularly around the dinner hour to dine on the berries. I recently read that an alternate common name for the Beautyberry is Mockingbird Bush. The shade of purple berries has garden guests halting instantaneously and exclaiming “What is that !?”

  4. Hi Carolyn… I have Winter King, but I seldom see a fruit display like yours!i You certainly have some beautiful fruit displays!

  5. Hi Carolyn. This fall I planted the ‘Issei’ Beautyberry, which is a dwarf of the Asian species. It was promptly attacked by the rabbits, though parts of the plant survive. I’d also be interested in planting the native, though I’m not sure I have the right spot. I also have Snowberry, which is closely related to Coralberry. Overall this has been a disappointing year for berries in my garden, as they all seem to have been devoured early – except for the Snowberry. I am most sad about the Cranberrybush Viburnum berries – the birds usually leave them until winter, but this year they were gone by early September. I also have Blackhaw Viburnum, but it didn’t set fruit this year. The Spicebush and Grey Dogwood fruited, but the berries disappear almost immediately.

    • Jason, It sounds like a sad situation for berries at your house. I think one of the parents of the ‘Amethyst’ coral berry is a snowberry. I don’t know much about that shrub either. The viburnum, spicebush, and dogwood fruit always disappears practically before I see it. Carolyn

  6. A nice selection of seasonal interest of color in your berry producers. I have to say, where did this growing season go? It is hard to believe we will be going into winter after finally getting the Autumn color. The lack of rain here has really changed plant growth and show. I hope you too get your needed rain, trees especially are in need.

  7. My Cotoneaster lacteus is bent over with all the berries this year and I love the fact that it is evergreen. Another favorite is the golden leaved Blade of Sun snowberry which has magenta berries

  8. I love the Callicarpa, wish I had room for one in my garden, the berries are incredible! Since you mention berries and birds, I have read that of all the colours, birds are most attracted to red berries, but I have never had any birds eating the red berries of my female Skimmia (Skimmia japonica ‘Bowle’s Dwarf’), I get to keep the berries all winter until it flowers again in the spring. Wonder if they are poisonous?
    I wish I could send you some rain, we must have had more rain the last couple of weeks than the whole last autumn and winter.

    • Helene, I think the ‘Early Amethyst’ callicarpa would fit in your garden because it is a cut back shrub and can be kept small. The photo that I showed was of three plants all grown together. It is also not very expensive or maybe you could get a seedling from a fellow blogger over there. The birds don’t eat my skimmia berries either. Carolyn

  9. You have a wonderful selection of berry bearing shrubs Carolyn, this year my crab apple is very prolific and is full of fruit that strangely the birds hardly ever touch.

    • Christina, I would love to have a crab apple for the look of the fruit right now but not enough sun. It is nice to have some fruit display that persisits because the birds around my house are very hungry and make short work of most of my berries. Carolyn

  10. I am feeling shrub envy at the moment. The colour of fruit on the Beautyberries is arresting. I am glad to hear the Hawthorn is in your good books again. It is a nice tree. Hope you get the rain – we have been getting it regularly since late August.

  11. I just added 2 snowberry ‘Blades of Sun’ to an area with dry partial shade as well as 2 diervilla ‘Cool Splash’ to a moister spot. I’m excited about both of them. I love those beautyberries and wish I had room for one. I wish a dwarf cultivar would come out.

  12. The birds eat all my ilex verticillata, usually in one day. I am in conflicted about this. On one hand I love the bright red berries, on the other hand I love the annual show when dozens of birds descend on the verticillata all at once and create quite a show. And I like to feed the birds.

  13. Just beautiful! And I agree about the abundance of fruit this year. I do think it was the extra rain this summer.

  14. Your berries are so beautiful, Carolyn! I tried beautyberry in my woodland walk with no luck — I think it didn’t have enough light. Must try again in a different spot. My crabapple has more berries than I have ever seen. It’s raining here at last — but very windy today. P. x

  15. American beautyberry is one of my favorite shrubs, and I am glad to see that it is getting easier to find. There is a spot on Jamestown Island near here where a huge colony of it grows. I need to go back there with my camera.

  16. Lots of interesting things in this fall themed post Carolyn. I love the berries on the ‘Amethyst’ coral berry, Symphoricarpos x doorenbosii. I will have to check out the post on hardy begonias. What neat flower shapes.

  17. All my favorites. My winterberries were not so great of late but I think they are having to deal with aggressives neighbors. I have to remember about the hardy begonias.

  18. I planted several female winterberries, along with their male counterparts, a couple of years ago. So far, no berries! Is their youth the reason, or could I be doing something wrong? They get sun till about 2 p.m., then light shade.

    • Deb, Unless they were cuttings when you planted them I think they should have berries by now. Have you noticed flowers on them? It sounds like they are getting enough sun. Two things come to mind. You could have all females and the “male” was mismarked. You can check the flowers in the spring if you can tell the difference or research how to tell the difference. The other possibility is that the male you bought is not the right pollinator because it doesn’t bloom at the right time. Carolyn

  19. Hi ‘shady gardener’ Carolyn! Love all your photos! And so glad to know the callicarpa ‘early amethyst’ can be cut back in the spring and will return to a nice size over the growing season. Thanks! I just planted one yesterday!

  20. Hi Carolyn, Sorry about the poop on my blog today. You know me-love it all these adventures in the garden. Your berries are wonderful. Especially the hawthorn. I used to have a few trees and boy do they grow fast! I took them out because of the thorns but I may have to give Winter King a try. It is beautiful and I’ve heard good things about it. Red Sprite is surely a winner too. Enjoy the fall. Time will tell on the winter. I am pretty flexible either way-I just dress in more layers when it is cold. We still plan to break ground in the spring and then the gardens will really kick in. Come check in anytime and take care!

  21. Like every other gardener I am always looking for suggestions and tips on plants that I can add to my garden…your photos and information was greatly appreciated

  22. Of course, I was looking at your coral berry and thinking it looked so familiar. Then I read your comment that one of the parents to this plant is the snowberry. Now I know why I recognized it! Snowberry is one of my favourite native plants.

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