Search For:

Share This

Berries, The Flowers Of Winter

As winter slowly arrives and the garden begins to transform itself into a winter garden oasis, I am reminded of how beautiful this season can be.

Dark greens, browns, and grays seem to be the most popular colors of winter, but you can always find red and yellow in many fruits, stems, and bark. The cool-season annual pansies and ornamental kale are always surprisingly tough and provide some splashes of color and excitement to the winter garden.

The red fruits on crabapple, hawthorn, holly, deciduous holly, and nandina are easy to locate each winter. Their colored fruit stand out perfectly against winter’s neutral background.

Japanese beautyberry
Callicarpa japonica, Japanese beautyberry, is a unique plant for the garden. They grow only 4 to 6 feet in height and with equal width, so they don’t take up a lot of room. You can plant them singly or in a small group, and they look just as beautiful either way.

The flowers emerge in the summer and are white, but can also appear to be light lavender. They cover the length of the new growth. The flowers are quite subtle. Because they flower on new wood or the current season’s growth, one common maintenance practice is to cut this plant back severely, even to about 6 inches or so above the ground at the end of each winter.

Beautiful berries
The foliage is not striking, but still quite full. Its simple leaves are typically two to three inches long and are best described as an average green. Fall color is very nice, with the leaves turning yellow with a hint of purple. As the fall color sets in, the fruit turns from green to a lavender purple.

Individually, the fruits are quite small, but they are held on the stem in groups that are about an inch in diameter. What’s most impressive is that the fruit cluster can line the stems from top to bottom of each branch. The weight can make the branches arch slightly more than normal for the plant. You won’t feel guilty if you choose to cut some stems to use for decoration in the house. Birds do not typically eat the berries.

The fruit, while beautiful and unusual in color, does not remain colorful on the plants all winter. By the end of December, or whenever we have temperatures in the low 20s, the fruit will begin to fade and turn black.

Japanese beautyberry prefers to be planted in full sun but will tolerate light shade. They are not picky when it comes to soil conditions, but a well-drained site is best. This plant is actually one that will do quite well once established in areas where the soil has been heavily cropped or is not very fertile.

Beautyberry cultivars
One popular cultivar commonly available is ‘Heavy Berry,’ known for fruiting heavily even when the plants are young. You may also find ‘Leucocarpa,’ which has white fruit, but is quite a bit more difficult to find.

It is such a simple pleasure to be able to look out my windows and enjoy my garden each winter. I have started to notice that my teenage children will even stop for a moment on occasion and glance out into the garden. It makes me happy that they are starting to see and appreciate the quiet beauty that winter brings to our garden and to our home.

Share This
Don't Leave! Sign up for Kentucky Living updates ...
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.