Have a berry good time

Many plants need part­ners to bear fruit. Han­nah Stephen­son looks at the types which need male and fe­males planted to­gether, and those which don’t

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - GARDENING AND PETS -

Look in any gar­den cen­tre or nurs­ery at the mo­ment and you will see an ar­ray of berries in all colours bright and beau­ti­ful, from the deep reds of holly to the won­der­ful, orange-berried co­toneast­ers. Yet many gar­den­ers com­plain their shrubs do not pro­duce berries. This may be down to gen­der rather than dis­ease or weak­ness in the plant. If you want a sea of berries, here’s some es­sen­tial ad­vice. PLANT BOTH MALE AND FE­MALE HOLLY BUSHES Most va­ri­eties of holly carry the male and fe­male flowers on sep­a­rate plants. One of each is re­quired for fer­til­i­sa­tion to take place. That means you need to grow both male and fe­male plants to pol­li­nate each other.

Be care­ful, though, some names are mis­lead­ing, such as ‘Golden Queen’, which is a male, while ‘Golden King’ and ‘In­dian Chief ’ are both fe­male. LOOK OUT FOR SELF-FER­TILE TYPES There are va­ri­eties that are self-fer­tile, with male and fe­male flowers, where one plant is there­fore ca­pa­ble of pro­duc­ing berries. Th­ese in­clude Ilex aquifolium ‘J C van Tol’, which pro­duces bright red berries, and Ilex aquifolium ‘Pyra­mi­dalis’, which is sim­i­lar, but with pale green leaves.

Some fe­male cul­ti­vars of holly may pro­duce a few berries even when they are iso­lated, but for a more re­li­able crop you’ll need to plant a male nearby. If you’ve only room for one plant, opt for the her­maph­ro­dite S. japon­ica Subsp. reevesiana, which has both male and fe­male parts. Trees and shrubs that bear or­na­men­tal fruit with­out need­ing two plants in­clude Ar­bu­tus unedo, cratae­gus, malus, sor­bus, pyra­can­tha, co­toneaster, eu­ony­mus and berberis. TH­ESE ARE THE PLANTS THAT NEED PART­NERS For a fab­u­lous dis­play of pur­ple fruits, you need to grow a male variety near Gaulthe­ria mu­cronata ‘Stag River’.

Other dioe­cious (those which pro­duce a male and a fe­male plant, re­quir­ing one of each to pol­li­nate the fruits) in­clude sea buck­thorn (Hip­pophae rham­noides), Au­cuba japon­ica and Vibur­num da­vidii.

An­other won­der­ful shrub that also needs both male and fe­male plants to pro­duce its vi­brant red berries in au­tumn and win­ter is Skim­mia japon­ica. HOW CAN YOU TELL A FE­MALE FROM A MALE PLANT? For a start, look at the la­bel. Plants of dif­fer­ent sexes will of­ten be marked ‘fe­male’ or ‘male’ next to the name of the plant. If you know the cul­ti­var name, you can look up its sex in the RHS Plant Finder. LEAVE THE FLOWERS ALONE To get a pro­fu­sion of berries and dec­o­ra­tive fruits, you must leave the flower to de­velop. For many green-fin­gered buffs who like their gar­den to be per­ma­nently neat and tidy, this may go against the grain. But putting up with bedrag­gled flowers will reap rich re­wards later on with fruits for the win­ter sea­son. ROSE HIP TIP Not all roses pro­duce hips, but most do and some are as spec­tac­u­lar as the flowers them­selves. If you want rose hips (above), you need to leave faded flowers on your rose bushes.

Look out for R. moye­sii and its hy­brids, which pro­duce orange hips in the cooler months, while Rosa cau­data has flagon-shaped hips and Rosa pimpinel­li­fo­lia has dark hips in cho­co­late brown through to black. The fruit of the hawthorn, called haws, is also beau­ti­ful, turn­ing dark red as it ripens, but if you trim a hawthorn hedge be­fore it flowers, you will not have fruit later on. YOU MAY BE LUCKY If you only have room for one plant but you have neigh­bour­ing gar­dens with the same species, it may be that a male from a nearby gar­den will be close enough to pol­li­nate a fe­male in yours. KEEPING BIRDS OFF YOUR BERRIES Birds gen­er­ally go for the red and orange berries on shrubs and trees, and dark blue and black berries last long­est in the win­ter gar­den. If you want some deep, dark spec­i­mens that will see out the win­ter, look no fur­ther than Ma­ho­nia repens, Os­man­thus decorus and Daphne pon­tica. Plant them at the front of the bor­der, so that they won’t be lost in the shade. The fruits of Malus ‘Red Sen­tinel’, Malus ‘Golden Hor­net’ and Sor­bus cash­miri­ana also tend not to be the birds’ first choice. Re­mem­ber, some berries and fruits, such as those of ivy or yew, are poi­sonous and haz­ardous to young chil­dren.

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