Berry-producing plants for the winter seasonThroughout the growing season there are many trees and shrubs that produce berries that various animals and birds love to feed upon. They include the dogwood berries, raspberries, juneberries, elderberries, chokecherries, currants and so many more. By the time autumn arrives, many of these fruits are long gone and consumed.
By: John Zvirovski, The Jamestown Sun
Throughout the growing season there are many trees and shrubs that produce berries that various animals and birds love to feed upon. They include the dogwood berries, raspberries, juneberries, elderberries, chokecherries, currants and so many more. By the time autumn arrives, many of these fruits are long gone and consumed.
There are many other trees and shrubs that produce fruit, which lasts through the winter months. Items such as the mountain ash, black or red chokeberry, winterberry, highbush cranberry, cotoneaster, and the crabapple are all great landscape specimens that create fruit for the natural environment to be consumed in the winter when food is scarce.
By planting these items in the landscape, you do not only create an appealing design, but also a natural feeding ground for many of nature’s feathered friends. Each of these plant items has its own unique characteristics that many homeowners find desirable in the garden.
The mountain ash is a medium-sized tree that has leaves with numerous leaflets to them. They form a dense habit with an oval form and a copper-colored bark for nice contrast. The most common variety planted in our region is the European mountain ash. It has white fuzzy flower clusters in the springtime and creates a fall foliage color of yellow and orange. In late summer to early fall, orange clusters of berries are produced that last throughout the winter months. As the berries go through the freeze and thaw cycle, they become tender and very desirable for birds to eat as it seems to change their flavor.
Black and red chokeberry are wonderful species also known as aronia. They are medium-sized shrubs that grow from four to eight feet in height. They have deep green leaves throughout the summer and produce clusters of white or light pink flowers in the spring. During the autumn season, they explode into intense shades of orange, red and burgundy, which set them off from so many other shrubs in the garden. When the leaves have fallen to the ground, big clusters of red or black chokeberries remain. The red are the first to go by the birds due to their sweeter flavor, but the black berries are soon to follow during the winter months for food high in vitamins and antioxidants. These berries are also great for the human consumption of jams, syrups, juices and wines.
Winterberry bushes are a hardy type of holly shrub for our region. Their leaves are small and oval and do not have the telltale shape of the sharp holly leaves you find during the Christmas season. These are large shrubs that will grow from eight to 15 feet high in time. To produce berries, you need at least one male tree and numerous female trees to pollinate the flowers. The flowers that bloom in spring are insignificant, but the red berries that are produced later in the season are the real reason these shrubs are grown. When the leaves fall during autumn, their brilliant red berries, produced by the hundreds, come into view and add that perfect touch to the winter landscape that follows. Birds love these berries during the winter and will clean through them by spring with eager delight.
The highbush cranberry, or the American cranberry bush, is another great specimen for the yard. It is not a true cranberry, but it will grow into a large shrub eight to 12 feet in height with a broad spread. They have three-lobed leaves with pointed ends and produce flat clusters of white flowers during the late spring and early summer periods. In late summer to early fall their berry clusters will turn to a bright red color similar to that of the sweet cherry. Rarely do these berries last throughout the entire winter season as the birds love their flavor and devour them within the first few months.
The cotoneaster is a small- to medium-sized shrub that takes very well to pruning to keep its shape. It will become dense in time and produces a very small pink flower in the early summer months. Eventually a small berry forms, which begins red in color and slowly matures to a deep maroon or black berry. Often these berries will remain until the following year if the birds do not completely eat them through the season. Not only is this a great landscape shrub due to its great pruning response for topiaries and unique designs in the garden, but it also produces stunning fall colors of vibrant oranges and reds to add to your landscape palette.
My favorite fruit-producing tree for winter would have to be the red splendor crabapple tree. Unlike many other crabapples that tend to drop their fruit before the leaves have fallen, this species holds tight to the fruit until late spring. It grows to become a medium-sized tree with a broad spread. In the springtime it will inspire you with its magnificent display of pink to red flowers with their sweet scent. During the summer the fruits are usually hidden from view by the maroontinted foliage. In autumn when the leaves have fallen, the berries seem to take their place. With each passing cold day, the berries seem to become brighter and brighter. Birds and deer will feed on them in the winter and if there are any left over in the spring, the flocks of migrating robins and cedar waxwings will devour the remaining within days.
If you are looking to add some landscape interest to your gardens along with feeding nature without any extra effort, these specimens along with many others are great choices to consider. Not only will you be adding a visual appeal to your yard, but you will also be encouraging the wildlife to enjoy it nearly as much as you do.
Think of the money you could save on bird food if you have some natural food for them to feed on also as a supplement. Many of these items will begin producing fruit within the first few years, so it will not take long for you to start giving back to the natural environment.