While spring is a time of renewal in the Cleveland landscape, fall is the opposite. Fall feels like a conclusion to the year. The brilliant landscape plant and tree colors, like the grand finale of a fireworks show or an encore in a theater production, signal a time of change in the Northern Ohio landscape; a time of closure. The fact is though, that your landscape plants can be enjoyed throughout the winter as well. There are various interesting and beautiful landscaping plants and trees that can be planted for winter interest due to their bark color, or branching structure. Attributes you perhaps would not pay as much attention to while the plant still has its leaves. Some People like to leave up ornamental grasses and certain perennials for winter landscaping interest. Well how about berries? There are many trees and shrubs that can be enjoyed well into the winter due to their colorful berries and other natural attributes. Below are five of my favorite winter landscaping plants with "Berry Interesting" eye appeal.
Winterberry (Ilex verticillata) – Winterberry is a deciduous holly bush. This means that it loses its leaves in the fall unlike other hollies which are evergreen. Because it loses its leaves, you are able to really enjoy the vibrant red berries. Winterberry is dioecious as are other hollies. You need to have at least one male plant in the area to pollinate the females. If you don’t, you will not have any berries. They grow 6-10ft depending on the variety, and can grow in sun or partial shade. They are also known to be deer resistant. The berries last through winter as long as the birds don’t get to them. Some might find that an advantage though!
Beautyberry (Callicarpa) – The first time you see the berries of the beautyberry, you will do a double take. The vibrant fruit is so shockingly purple you will think they are artificial. The berries are sometimes used as a mosquito repellant and even in wine. They get a small whitish pink flower which is hardly visible through the foliage, but you don’t plant them for the flower. The fruit is well worth the wait though, just be careful not to prune them too harshly as you will lose much of the berries. Depending upon variety, the plants grows 4-6ft tall and can grow in sun to partial shade. Like the winterberry, the beautyberry is also deer resistant.
Crabapple (Malus spp.) – Unlike the first two plants on the list, the crabapple is not only a tree, but it’s also one which is enjoyed in the spring for its abundance of flowers. Not all crabapples hang on to their fruit beyond the fall. There are some however which will maintain the apple into the winter and possibly the spring if the birds don’t eat them first. Be sure when making a decision on which crabapple to plant, that you don’t just choose one for its fruit or its flower. They range in height anywhere from 13-40ft. Some are more shrub-like, but most are upright. Just do your research first. With respect to winter fruit though, there are a few which are good choices. ‘Donald Wyman, ‘Jewelcole’, ‘Wintergold’, ‘Hozam’, ‘Strawberry parfait’, and ‘Sugar Tyme’ are a few known to keep their fruit well into the winter.
Sorbhus huphensis ‘Pink Pagoda’ – The pink pagoda is a little known mountain ash which grows 20-25’ tall and 20’ wide. It has attractive bluish-green foliage and white flowers which develop into deep pink berries that usually persist into winter although they will fade to a pale pink or white.
Aultheria procumbens – Better known as wintergreen, this is an evergreen shrublet which has white urn-shaped summer flowers, followed by large bubblegum-scented red berries that often persist through winter. The glossy dark green foliage also takes on burgundy tones in the colder weather, making it a great container feature or small-scale groundcover.
The five plants I chose for this article are by no means the only options for winter berries. These are just five that I personally like, and that can do well in the Cleveland area landscape. When making choices for your own area, make sure to think about zone hardiness, light and water requirements as well as soil type.