Flowers and foliage are often the first thing gardeners think about when choosing plants for the garden, but many plants have another explosion of colour that's every bit as spectacular as blossom or elegant leaves. Berries can smother a tree or shrub in a good year, often in late autumn and early winter when there's not much in the way of other colour around.
Visit our garden centre in St Albans in autumn and you'll find dozens of plants in full berry, and it's quite a sight. Here are our top picks for a spectacular autumn display.
- Barberry (Berberis thunbergii) is a really easy to grow shrub that just keeps on giving. Covered in pale straw-coloured flowers in spring, it follows with brilliant red berries and orange foliage in autumn.
- Cotoneaster come in all shapes and sizes, from horizontalis, with herringbone branches which can be trained against a wall, to serotinus, an arching shrub to 1.5m tall. All are smothered in berries in autumn.
- Firethorn (Pyracantha) comes with red, orange or yellow berries: plant all three for a firework display of densely-clustered berries in autumn, and train against a wall for a sculptural garden feature.
- Holly (Ilex aquifolium) only has berries if you plant a male and a female plant: if you haven't room, there's a self-fertile variety called 'JC Van Tol'.
- Rowans (Sorbus) are small trees whose berries are much loved by birds. Sorbus cashmiriana has pearly white berries, while 'Joseph Rock' fruits buttery yellow.
- Beauty berry (Callicarpa bodinieri) has perhaps the most extraordinary autumn berries of them all: in an iridescent, jewel-like violet purple there's nothing else quite like them in the plant world.
- Elder (Sambucus nigra) follows its frothy dinner-plate flowerheads with striking sprays of black berries: pick them as soon as they're ripe and you can make elderberry wine.
- Species roses are the ones which produce ornamental hips in autumn to follow a riot of summer flowers. The hips of Rosa moyesii are sealing-wax red and waisted, like flagons of wine, while R. spinosissima has fat, spherical black hips.
Please ask the staff in our St Albans garden centre for more information and advice about plants with good autumn berries.