Berries in the winter garden

Photinia davidiana (David’s Christmas berry) is a tough evergreen plant that also has white flowers in early summer.

I last wrote about how hardscaping can make your garden in winter – and year round, for that matter. I still maintain that the hard landscape makes the biggest overall impact on the garden in winter, but there’s no denying plants pull their weight.

Take evergreens. They’re pros at this winter thing. Evergreen shrubs, trees and hedges can function like hardscaping in terms of their permanence and impact. They are architectural plants that will retain their form while the rest of the garden lies dormant. Ornamental grasses and plants with interesting seed heads are also popular additions to the winter landscape.

But when it comes to creating interest in the winter garden, you can’t beat berries. They provide food for birds, colour amidst the white – or gray, as the case may be – and joy to human visitors. Here are some of my favourites.

The berries of cute little Pernettya mucronata look like tiny strawberry bubblegum spheres. This low-growing shrub has fine, glossy evergreen leaves that take well to a shearing.

Although the berries of the Pacific Northwest native Snowberry (Caprifoliaceae Symphoricarpos albus) are considered toxic, they can be highly entertaining to children. I survived growing up with a yard full of them. Now Lila will have to, too, as I planted one in our backyard. (*Update*: Eleanor from Out of Doors, an ethnobotany student, has pointed me towards the Plants for a Future Database listing for snowberry, which indicates, “Although toxic, [saponins]

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