Berries for colour

Untitled Document

April 2014

My garden is small yet in most spots functional. It copes with poor soil, wind and occasional salt spray. NZ natives are my plants of choice but you couldn't exactly call them "floral" so when I need a flower fix, I have to look elsewhere.

A visit to the garden centre is a good option which may empty the wallet but is rich on the garden. Another option, requiring only time and energy is a visit to the local botanic garden. On one of my recent visits, I met a lady who walks up Kelburn Hill during her lunch breaks and into the Botanic Gardens to enjoy the many beautiful displays – a far more rewarding and stimulating way to spend your lunch break than sitting in a café or the office.  Botanic or any municipal gardens are treasures to be enjoyed and can provide lots of good ideas for your own garden. In many cases the plants are named so you have no problems with identification.

Botanic gardens also remind us that at any time of year there is something on display, be it buds, flowers, berries or leaves. Autumn is very much berry time.  I spotted this glowing yellow Pyracantha (top left). There is an orange version too (bottom). They make great shrubs in the back of borders, as a hedge or trained along a wall. Mind the thorns though!

A favourite shrub of mine but not seen so often, is the Callicarpa or Beauty Berry (top image to left, middle top). Through the year it is a fairly non-descript deciduous shrub but in Autumn its bright purple berries will stop you in your tracks.

There are still some hardy roses in bloom at the Botanic Gardens but by now roses should be left alone to prepare for winter. A handful of potassium (sulphate of potash) around the base of the bush will help harden them up for winter. Many roses produce colourful berries (hips – top right) that can be left on the bush and enjoyed before their annual winter prune.

I mentioned before that NZ natives are not very floral, but many of them can produce stunning displays of berries. In many regions Kahikatea (bottom image, bottom middle) are fruiting in abundance and the bright orange and purple berries are enjoyed by all birds including tui, bellbird and kereru. Mahoe (top left) has deep purple berries to rival the Beauty Berry.

Karamu (right) may not be your garden plant of choice but it does have the brightest orange berries that birds and lizards love. Nertera (bottom left) is a pretty groundcover for damp shady spots that shines with bright orange berries at this time of year.

A word of caution – treat all berries with respect and unless you know without a doubt they are not poisonous, do not be tempted to eat them.