All About Berries

The berry season has arrived, so the flower of this week has matured from a flower into a fruit – the berry!  I was initially inspired by a wreath that I saw on the front of a gardening magazine. It was totally made of berries and I thought the bright red berries would look excellent on my wooden front door. Time will tell if I have the time to make up the wreath, but for the moment I thought I would cut the berries and just place them in a vase as an indoor decoration.  Then the question arose from where would I cut the berries? The first seasonal choice is obviously from a holly tree but alas my holly bush bears no berries (holly trees usually need cross pollination from another holly tree to produce berries, which I do not have). Instead I found other choice berry producing bushes and trees. So this week I will list shrubs and trees which are common place and all bear a good annual supply of berries.


Flower of the week from YOUR garden to YOUR table:   28th  Nov. – 4th Dec..

Botanical  Name: Cotoneaster.   Common Name : Cotoneaster 

cotoneaster berries

Although there are hundreds of varieties, two main types that are commonly sold; The Fishbone Cotoneaster, (Cotoneater Horizontalis) where the tiny leaves are arranged on their stems in a herring bone pattern often seen clinging to walls and fences.  Most of these are deciduous and by this time of the year the leaves have fallen leaving only the berries  on the stems, they are small and are connected singly, close to the stem along the branches. The other varieties have larger leaves and many are evergreen.  On these varieties the berries are born in clusters with long stalks. Cotoneater frigidus and cotoneater lacteus are two good examples. For yellow berries go for Cotoneater Rothchildian.

All the cotoneaters are easy to grow and not fussy about the soil or site, but I do find that they don’t fruit well against a northern wall.

Botanical  Name: Pyracantha .    Common Name : Firethorn

prycantha berries

From the distance you might mistake this bush for a cotoneaster, but as you get closer and especially if you touch it, you will notice the difference immediately. The Pyracantha has fierce thorns all along the wiry branches. The bush grows upright and is quick to settle in, to any soil aspect, thriving in sun or shade. The choice of berry colours is varied, including red, yellow and fiery orange varieties and the bunches are larger than the cotoneaster; a new variety has large purple berries – a real eye catcher.

If you have neither of the above two shrubs in your garden you can still find berries everywhere  on our common native tree – the hawthorn

Botanical  Name: Crataegus .    Common Name : Hawthorn


If you have not got the room in your garden for another tree I am not advising you to plant a hawthorn just for the berries as hawthorn berries can be found anywhere.

I found the tree pictured at the side of a city street , it had masses of berries begging to be picked!  Gardeners are not the type of people that are ashamed to take cuttings here and there so just snip a few branches for your home. Just remember to put your gloves on first as they are not called hawthorn for nothing.

Even more widespread is the rowan tree:

Botanical  Name: Sorbus .    Common Name : Rowan, Mountain Ash, Whitebeam


These are all very ordinary  trees often found lining streets and avenues, the clusters of berries droop low from the tree and might be difficult to contain in a vase but definitely very useful for the wreath, which I am sure you will also try to make when you find a spare moment over the next fortnight!