Good trees for urban gardens: Colorful berries for winter months

We continue our series highlighting trees that work for gardens in Edmonds. It’s presented by Master Gardener Barbara Chase, who serves on the Edmonds Tree Board.

With winter approaching and days getting shorter we all appreciate the color from berries in the garden.

English holly (ilex aquifolium) is quite common in the Northwest. The variegated variety is one of the best in the garden. It is a slow growing tree and produces many berries.There are many varieties of holly including ilex verticillata, which is a bush form.

Strawberry tree (arbutus unedo) is another tree which is evergreen. In the fall it produces white flowers followed by red berries, which resemble strawberries. It is a good specimen tree that grows to 25 feet. There is a compact form also.

There are other shrubs that produce berries. Some can be trimmed into small trees.

Cotoneaster has many varieties with berries. Some are shrubs and there are tree forms. If you want flowers and berries and need a strong, pest-free ground cover, consider cotoneaster dammeri. The plant grows vigorously and rarely has pests. The berries last for a long time.

Callicarpa bodinieri is a shrub that produces striking violet berries in clusters.

Pyracantha (firethorn) is another genus that produces many shrubs and trees. They are often used to espalier on a wall and are comparatively easy to grow and keep in control. The berries range in color from yellow through many shades of orange and are quite long- lasting.

Consider one of the many berry producing plants to give you color when many plants are dormant.

They will brighten your spirits during the many gloomy days of winter.

— By Barbara Chase

  1. The variegated variety is not invasive.

    The little English Holly that pops up in the garden can be invasive but I was not recommending that variety.

  2. If you want more information on the status of English Holly and good alternatives the Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board is a good resource. Good cultivars of ilex aquifolium are’ Ferox argentea’, ‘Gold Coast’ and ‘Argentea Marginata. Ilex meserveae ‘Blue Boy’ is another good choice.
    It also lists alternatives for Butterfly Plant and English laurel.

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