As we wrote our new book Gardening with Foliage First, Christina and I began to appreciate anew those shrubs which offered something in addition to outstanding foliage, some attribute which took them into multi-season superstar status. Flowers are an obvious bonus but in fall berries are of greater significance.
Here is where the less experienced gardener can be disappointed. If you select deciduous shrubs after the leaves have fallen and only have the color of the berries to entice you, come spring and summer the plant overall may just be another green blob in the garden. Put Foliage First and you won’t be disappointed, however! If the leaf is ‘just’ green, is it an especially pleasing shade of green or wonderfully shiny or heavily textured? Or does it offer another color on the underside such as silver? Or does it turn an outstanding color in fall?
With those criteria in mind here are my top 4 picks for shrubs that have exceptional foliage AND plentiful, colorful berries.
Brandywine viburnum has colorful berry clusters in shades of blue and pink
If you have space for a large, loosely upright shrub, consider this relatively new variety of viburnum introduced by Proven Winners. Brandywine (Viburnum nudum ‘Brandywine’)has stunning wine-red foliage in fall that lasts for many weeks and really sets off the bold clusters of pink and blue berries which are produced without an additional pollinator plant.
Brandywine viburnum – a fabulous shrub for larger spaces
In spring and summer the large elliptical leaves are a deep glossy green which stand out easily against the more typical mid-green, medium-textured, matte foliage of the shrub border.
This deer resistant shrub grows quickly to 6′ tall and wide but can be pruned after flowering to control the size (although you will of course sacrifice the berries that year). Give it plenty of room in the landscape or grow it in a large pot, perhaps to provide seasonal screening.
Does best in full sun or partial sun, with average moisture retentive soil and is hardy in USDA zones 5-9
American cranberry bush (Viburnum trilobum) showing early fruit production in summer.
Whether it is the soft green, lobed foliage that turns crimson in fall, the white spring flowers or the glossy fruit that dangle like miniature cherries you have to admit that the cranberry viburnum has a lot to offer. Three similar species are available and often confused, the American cranberry (Viburnum trilobum with its white lace-cap hydrangea type flowers, classic maple-like leaves and tart but edible berries) , the European cranberry (Viburnum opulus which has unpalatable berries and a less pronounced lobed leaf) and the highbush cranberry (Viburnum edule, favored for cooking but less so for ornamental gardening). This article explains some of the differences.
While the species European and American cranberry can reach up to 15 feet tall, there are several named cultivars that may work for you; firstly the European cranberry (Viburnum opulus) ‘Compactum’, and ‘Xanthocarpum’ which gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit. Compactum grows a more modest 5-6′ tall and wide while Xanthocarpum is a little larger at 6-8′ but has golden yellow berries which look remarkable against the red fall foliage.
Likewise the dwarf cultivar of the American cranberry (V. trilobum) Bailey’s Compact is much more manageable at 3-6′ tall and wide while Wentworth is taller (10-12′) but known for its heavy fruit set
The European cranberry bush, also commonly called guelder rose is hardy in zones 5-8, needs regular moisture and berries best in full sun. American cranberry bush (V. trilobum) is hardy down to zone 2 and also does well in partial shade.
Pearl Glam beautyberry
Pearl Glam beautyberry – new for 2017 from Proven Winners
‘Tis the season for beautyberry – but THIS stunner puts all the others to shame when it comes to star power. Gorgeous deep purple foliage makes Pearl Glam a winner from spring through fall, showing off both the white flowers and the metallic purple berries better than any other botanical ‘little black dress’ I’ve ever seen.
Pearl Glam beautyberry – new for 2017 from Proven Winners: you NEED this!
The shrub itself has a nicely shaped, loosely upright form, especially compared to older varieties which morph into a big green lump. Pearl Glam (Callicarpa x ‘Pearl Glam’) grows 4-5′ tall and wide, is drought tolerant once established, deer resistant and hardy in USDA zones 5-8.
It will be available in better garden centers in 2017 but I can tell you after testing two this year (in a mixed container and my own landscape) I am really excited!!
Parney’s cotoneaster (C. lacteus); evergreen foliage with a silver reverse
This wide, arching, evergreen shrub has been around for decades but is still a personal favorite of mine having grown it both in the UK and WA state.
The deeply veined leaves are silver on the reverse giving an overall shimmery appearance when the wind blows. Large clusters of white flowers in late spring are followed by equally impressive red berries that provide a winter feast for birds; robins especially seem to love them.
Parney’s cotoneaster is invasive in some areas (including California) so be sure to check with your extension office before planting. Where safe to use it can be a colorful, informal, evergreen hedge. It is hardy in zones 6-8 but in my experience it may suffer some winter die back in colder areas, especially if the soil remains saturated for long periods of time.
What’s your favorite shrub that has fabulous FOLIAGE and plentiful BERRIES? Leave us a comment here or post a photo to our Facebook page.
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