Gardening - Berries for fine winter formBy Linda Fort
November 13, 2009
I planted a holly tree in my front garden about eight years ago and it is now barely knee-high.
Hollies do not grow quickly but this one seems determined not to grow at all.
It was planted because I longed to be able to cut my own branches covered in berries each year for Christmas.
The variety is Ilex meserveae ‘Blue Maid’ and it does get the odd berry so at least I have one of the right sex – female that is.
Hollies have the confusing habit of being called one thing and turning out to be another – remember Ilex altaclerensis ‘Golden King’ is female and has berries while ‘Golden Queen’ with attractive spiny golden edged foliage has no berries because the queen is male.
‘Silver Milkboy’ – green leaves with a white blotch – seems to have had a sex change in his life and is now called ‘Silver Milkmaid’ and produces an abundance of scarlet berries.
Berries are not just for Christmas although they do come into their own then when brought in to make the house festive.
They do a very good job of decorating the garden at this time of year or at least until the birds get them. I have a fabulous cotoneaster adorning a fence close to my kitchen window.
It came from the leftovers of a school plant sale so I have no idea what it is. It is evergreen, about six feet tall, with fantastic arching branches which are currently covered with red berries.
Last year the two fat pigeons who visit my garden discovered the berries at about this time of year and proceeded to strip every single one off.
So far this year they don’t seem to have noticed. Pigeons do not strike me as very bright.
They also perch on branches too small to carry their weight and break them in their pursuit of food, which makes them almost as annoying as cats.
My favourite berries are the rosehips on my Rosa moyesii which are large and goblet shaped.
The Rosa rugosa in the front garden has a few fat hips this year, but not many. In a dry summer it has none at all.
Berries – not yet blue – are already starting to appear on my Mahonia japonica which is currently in full flower.
And I have some clusters of black berries on a myrtle in the front garden although not many because I gave it a hard prune in the summer.
The Leycesteria formosa is also forming long clusters of squashy maroon berries which look gorgeous but you have to be careful not to brush against them.
All this mellow fruitfulness is helping the garden to stay berry beautiful into the winter.