Create Your Own Winter Wonderland
 with Berry Plants

John Shaffer
Adams County Master Gardener

The trees are bare and there is snow on the ground. This doesn't mean that your garden has to become a winter wasteland. Evergreens can be quite stunning in the winter months. However, do not limit your landscape to these for winter interest. A well-planned garden should provide year-round interest and aesthetic entertainment.

Although the number of colorful and floriferous plants able to withstand the harsh winters is minimal, vibrant colors can still be had in the form of berry plants. Nothing can compare to the vibrant color of berries during the winter. Berry palates range from bright red to yellow to pale blue and white, so there is something to please everyone. Additionally, many berries will also attract a variety of birds to your garden. Fortunately a plethora of hardy berry-bearing beauties exist to provide much needed punctuation to an otherwise drab winter landscape. Consider planting some of the following:

The American Cranberrybush (Viburnum trilobum) is hardy to Zone 3 and grows to a height of 10 to 12 ft. tall. Although it sports red berries, some cultivars produce yellow berries. This shrub sprouts clusters of white flowers in the spring.

For an interesting contrast, plant Arrowwood (Viburnum dentatum) whose berries are bluish-black and form clusters of dark berries. They are very popular with birds and bear clusters of small white flowers in the spring.

The Common Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus) is adorned with an interesting white berry. It grows 3 to 5 ft. tall and is hardy to Zone 3. This little guy grows well in shade as well as sun and tolerates almost every soil type. Plant this in concert with the contrasting reddish-purple berries of the Coralberry (Symphoricarpos orbiculatus) shrub. Like Snowberry, this shrub likes shade as well as sun and is very easy to grow. It is also know as Indian Currant.

Consider planting Cranberry Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster apiculatus) if you are looking for an attention grabbing ground cover. It is hardy to Zone 4 and matures at a low 1 to 3 ft. tall. This great ground cover explodes with red berries but displays tiny pink flowers in the spring. Other low-growing cotoneasters include Bearberry Cotoneaster (C. dammeri) and Rockspray Cotoneaster (C. horizontalis).

Beautiful Pale Blue-Gray berries adorn the Northern Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica) shrub. It is hardy to Zone 3 and grows 4 to 10 ft. tall. Although it is partial to full sun this shrub is extremely hardy and easy to grow in most conditions. It is also salt tolerant.

Have I got an attractant for all you bird lovers out there. Winterberry (Ilex verticillata) is hardy to Zone 3 and grows 8 to 10 ft. tall. The berries can be either red or yellow. This wonderful addition to your winter garden is prized by our feathered friends. Birds love these berries, so there is a risk that the berries will all be eaten before the winter is over. However, if you love having birds in your garden, this will do the trick.

A giant of an addition would be Winter King Hawthorne (Crataegus viridis) which grows 20 to 30 ft. tall and is hardy to Zone 4. This tree flaunts bright red berries and exhibits clusters of white flowers in the spring. The Washington Hawthorn (Crataegus phaenopyrum) has similar properties to the Winter King.

Don't forget the American Holly (Ilex opaca) which is hardy to Zone 5 and boasts a mature height of 20 to 25 ft. tall. This tree exposes small white flowers in the spring. This red berry bearing tree also has many cultivars, such as "Xanthocarpa," which flashes golden-yellow berries.

However, if you want to end with a colossal bearer of berries, Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana), with it's vibrant powdery periwinkle blue berries, commands a towering 40 to 50 ft. tall height. This tree is hardy to Zone 3. The female trees parade these lovely berries (they are actually cones that look like berries) which are very popular with the birds.

Allow me to offer a word of caution about Black Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) with its beautiful dark purple berries. This may seem to be an attractive addition, but is considered invasive in many areas and should be avoided.

This is not an exhaustive list but is merely meant to get your creative juices flowing. There are many more varieties of berry and winter fruit bearing plants. The important thing is to keep in mind that winter does not have to equate to a dreary garden devoid of excitement. With just a little bit of planning, your garden can be a vibrant and colorful winter wonderland.

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