Berries give gar­dens a lift in win­ter

Straw­berry tree ir­re­sistible

Central Otago Mirror - - CLASSIFIEDS -

Dur­ing the cooler sea­son we of­ten see an ar­ray of small fruit or berries on trees and shrubs, which un­doubt­edly brighten the win­ter gar­den. Three of my favourite for colour are the straw­berry tree, heav­enly bam­boo, and Chi­nese beau­ty­berry.

The straw­berry tree ( Ar­bu­tus unedo) is a large shrub or small tree with non-stop ap­peal. Its hand­some fo­liage is har­vested year round, and dur­ing au­tumn and win­ter it’s hard to re­sist the al­lure of its straw­berry-like fruit. The fruit starts out yel­low and ma­tures to or­ange then scar­let, with all colours ap­pear­ing on the tree at the same time. The fruit is ed­i­ble, but only in small quan­ti­ties, as it’s slightly toxic. But it does look fab­u­lous picked for the vase. Fo­liage har­vested for the vase lasts more than three weeks, as do stems with fruit.

White, pieris-like flow­ers ap­pear in au­tumn, though pick­ing these will mean no fu­ture fruit.

These hardy plants are tol­er­ant of most con­di­tions, though a fer­tile soil in full sun to part shade is ideal. There is no need to prune, un­less you want to keep your plant to a cer­tain height. Left unchecked, plants grow 5 me­tres high x 3mwide.

An­other plant known for its win­ter berries as well as its colourful fo­liage is heav­enly bam­boo ( Nan­d­ina do­mes­tica), which is not a bam­boo at all but an ever­green shrub with bam­boo-like fo­liage. Dur­ing au­tumn and win­ter the leaves take on dra­matic hues, in­clud­ing red, or­ange and gold. The plants also pro­duce at­trac­tive red or or­ange berries.

There are a num­ber of dif­fer­ent cul­ti­vars to choose from, in­clud­ing Gulf Stream, whose leaves are lime-green ma­tur­ing to a bronzy-rose, and a fiery red and or­ange in win­ter. Gulf Stream grows up to 70 cen­time­tres high.

There’s also an at­trac­tive dwarf clump­ing nan­d­ina (to 60cm) called Har­bor Belle. It has a pink flush to its green spring leaves, and rich bur­gundy win­ter leaves. Its cream flow­ers turn to red berries. All nan­d­i­nas are hardy plants.

Chi­nese beau­ty­berry ( Cal­li­carpa di­chotoma) has the bright­est pur­ple berries in au­tumn and early win­ter. The berries (dru­pes) brighten as tem­per­a­tures drop, tak­ing on an al­most psy­che­delic sheen. They first ap­pear in au­tumn, but they’re at their showiest in early win­ter when the leaves have fallen. The berries are ex­cel­lent for pick­ing, last­ing over a month in the vase be­fore wrin­kling. The young leaves, which are bronze-pur­ple, are also used in the vase dur­ing spring and sum­mer, al­though they don’t last nearly as long.

Plants are best pruned af­ter fruit­ing.

Prun­ing stim­u­lates bushy growth; left to them­selves, the stems may be­come long and spindly.

Beau­ty­berry tol­er­ates sun or part shade but grows best in full sun in well-drained soil.

It likes an acidic soil; if your soil is too al­ka­line the leaves will be­gin to yel­low.

Plant more than one beau­ty­berry for bet­ter berry set.

Keeps giv­ing: The straw­berry tree has hand­some fo­liage.

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