Colourful berries to grow in your garden

Asters contrast prettily with golden crab apples. Image: Leigh Clapp

Asters contrast prettily with golden crab apples. Image: Leigh Clapp - Credit: Archant

From scarlet red, to deepest purple, two experts reveal shrubs that will paint a rainbow in your outdoor spaces this autumn

Stunning Callicarpa 'Profusion'. Image: Leigh Clapp

Stunning Callicarpa 'Profusion'. Image: Leigh Clapp - Credit: Archant

We are all familiar with red berries, but there are also unusual hues to explore in this jewel box of plants. Hardy fruiting plants bring colour in the garden at this time of the year with their bright berries in golds, oranges, reds, pinks and even purple, hanging like mini baubles on skeletal stems or as shining lanterns amongst evergreen foliage. Berries epitomise the mellow, fruitfulness of autumn, decorate the garden, many provide a vital food source for wildlife and they can also supply lots of material for long-lasting floral arrangements indoors. A bonus is that most berry-producing trees and shrubs are easy to grow, don’t need much pruning and tolerate a range of soils and climatic conditions, including frost, wind and drought.

There are choices for both large and small gardens; if you have a tiny garden the best way to introduce berries may be to train or espalier against a wall, with ones such as glossy orange, red or yellow berried pyracantha or crimson cotoneaster. Think vertically as well with vines or a climbing rose that produces hips. Ornamental crab apples have probably the best of all the winter fruits and along with their pretty spring blossom have great versatility due to the range of sizes available, for small gardens, courtyards or even containers. Evergreen hollies are also ideal to clip into topiaries for containers or in the garden. Traditionally the time to plant trees and shrubs is between November and March, as planting before Christmas allows better establishment while the soil still has warmth.

It’s worth doing a bit of research and visiting garden centres to see what’s on offer. At Spring Reach Nursery at Long Reach near West Horsley you will find a comprehensive range of plants, such as shrubs, trees, perennials and grasses. In autumn the displays include an array of shining berried choices, from the eye-catching beauty of purple Callicarpa bodinieri var. giraldii ‘Profusion’, through cotoneasters and crab apples, to the decorative rowans, snowberries, nandinas and Arbutus unedo, the aptly named strawberry tree with its bright red edible fruit.

READ MORE: Find autumn colour in these Surrey gardens

“Look out for some new offerings such as Arbutus ‘Roselily’, a compact variety; scarlet-berried Sorbus ‘Olympic Flame’ and Sorbus ‘Autumn Spire’, which has yellow berries. Favourites to help birds through the wintertime are pyracanthas, crab apples, Sorbus aucuparia types, and holly, whereas Skimmia japonica and Nandina domestica are untouched by birds so great for ornamental value,” explains owner Nick Hourhan.

Glossy rose hips. Image: Leigh Clapp

Glossy rose hips. Image: Leigh Clapp - Credit: Archant

Also with a wide range to inspire are the Squire’s Garden Centres with multiple Surrey locations, including Cobham and Reigate. “Each Squire’s centre order their own stock depending on the soil type in their area and local conditions, with always plenty to choose from,” explains Sarah Squire, chairman of Squire’s Garden Centres. Some great options on display are bound to be the superbly colourful euonymus with red and orange dangling fruits, reliable cotoneasters, prolific pyracantha, and of course holly and crab apples.

“For beautiful berries plant a pyracantha, cotoneaster or gaultheria. Pyracantha ‘Saphyr Orange’ is an upright shrub with glossy green leaves and orange-red berries,” suggests Sarah. “Cotoneaster ‘Cornubia’ has delicate white flowers in May followed by distinctive red berries in winter. Gaultheria procumbens ‘Red Diamond’ is an acid loving small evergreen shrub with long lasting red berries. As well as looking great in your garden the berries will also help feed the birds during the winter months. Birds love to feed on berries, and on insects found on berried plants. Berries are a vital source of food for wildlife during our cold winter months, not just good for birds, but hedgehogs, squirrels, mice, badgers and even foxes will all happily feed on them. Attractive shrubs like cotoneaster and pyracantha also provide great shelter and nesting areas for birds.”

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Nick’s top recommendations

· Malus ‘Jelly King’ – orange and pink berries and one of the best for making crab apple jelly

· Malus ‘Neville Copeman’ – large and prolific orange-red fruits

A specimen crab apple makes an attractive scene with topiary containers. Image: Leigh Clapp

A specimen crab apple makes an attractive scene with topiary containers. Image: Leigh Clapp - Credit: Archant

· Ilex aquifolim ‘Alaska’ – scarlet berries, glossy traditional-looking self-pollinating holly

· Ilex ‘Nellie Stevens’ - self-pollinating so every plant will have bright red berries

· Pyracantha ‘Saphyr Rouge’ – reliable, plentiful clusters of red berries

· Callicarpa bodinieri var. giraldii ‘Profusion’ – beauty berry, purple fruit

· Gaultheria procumbens – red berries, great for containers, not liked by the birds

Training on an arch is an attractive idea. Image: Leigh Clapp

Training on an arch is an attractive idea. Image: Leigh Clapp - Credit: Archant

Sarah’s top tips

· Year-round colour – winter berries will bring a splash of colour to your garden when a lot of trees are bare. As well as striking berries in the winter you will benefit from beautiful blossom in spring, and some plants have evergreen leaves year-round.

· Great gap filler - boost your borders with berried trees and shrubs, and add height and interest to your garden.

· Plant anywhere - in the soil, in containers, or as a hedge. Pyracantha & holly make a great prickly security hedge.

· Great value for money – berried shrubs and trees are easy to grow and will thrive for years.

· Spring Reach Nursery, Long Reach, Ockham, GU23 6PG and Squire’s Garden Centres are open seven days a week.

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