With the last of the Autumn leaves falling, Winter berries not only bring bursts of colour to your garden but can provide an essential food source for wildlife & some even a crop of amazing flavours for you to enjoy too!
Here we share a few of our favourite Winter berries..
Native planting should always form the backbone to our gardens to ensure we provide for native vertebrates & invertebrates that have highly specialised relationships with these plants. Berry-rich native species include many familiar favourites, including:-
- Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna – photo above left) with its small red edible berries popular with fruit eating birds & us for adding to fruit leathers & making Haw Ginger Syrup!
- Dog-Rose (Rosa canina) our native rose which has a delicate single flower followed by rosehips.
- Guelder rose (Viburnum opulus – photo above right) turns a lovely Autumn colour leaving the most gorgeous glossy red berries.
- Holly (Ilex aquifolium) needs no introduction. The foliage & classic red berries adorn everything from cards, cakes & jumpers at Christmas. The foliage & berries keep well – perfect for making making your own festive wreath or table decoration. If you haven’t got access to gather your own material, Mags at BumbleBee Flower Farm has crafted a range of beautiful make your own wreath kits using sustainably harvested local foliage, twigs & berries.
- Ivy (Hedera hibernica & Hedera helix) is better known for its foliage but once allowed to ramble upwards, it starts flowering. At this time of year these develop into berries which are much loved by blackbirds, thrushes & wood pigeons in particular.
- Rowan or Mountain Ash (Sorbus aucuparia – photo above centre) had a mast year here this year, the trees were absolutely dripping in fruit! The berries have to be cooked, we use them in jams & chutneys.
- Sloes (Prunus Spinosa) are another Winter classic, best known for making Sloe gin & a very Merry Christmas!! Want to make your own Boozy Wild Berry Liquoir!? Our recipe below..
With climate change bringing ever more extreme weather events & rising temperatures, gardens, being highly managed/monitored green spaces provide an opportunity to boost resilience by weaving in a greater diversity of species that can feed us & wildlife. Our favourite non-native berry-rich plants include..
- Roses (Rosa sp.– photo above centre) ..are well known for their blousy blooms but less for their Winter crop of fruit. Rosehips were used in war times to provide important Vitamin C or as children to break open the itching powder inside to throw down someones back! So far as varieties, I recommend ‘Kew Rambler’ which is great for growing up into a tree. Or for something smaller try Rugosa roses. There are some great named varieties now which smell amazing, tough as old boots & produce masses of big fat rosehips which can be made into syrups, jams, jellies & ketchup!
- Firethorn (Pyracantha sp. – photo above left) A popular, hardy, ever-green shrub which clips well into a hedge or can be trained up walls too. Produces masses of pollinator friendly flowers & Winter berries for birds – orange or red fruiting varieties which are preferred. Just be careful of the large thorns!
- Chilean Guava (Myrtus Ugni – see photo above right) Cranberries are often the choice for Christmas but I’m not sure why, I guess it’s tradition with the turkey. Why not try a new flavour to accompany your Christmas Dinner!? Chillean Guava berries sweeten as the temperatures drop & can be collected to make a your own cranberry sauce substitute. The biggest challenge is getting them back to the Kitchen! The berries are so moreish, with an amazing tropical flavour that it’s hard to resist not snaffling the lot straight from the bush.
We hope this has given you some inspiration on some Winter berries to introduce to your garden for you & your local wildlife to feast on! For lots more information specifically on bird-friendly planting for your garden, fly on over to this blog post of ours. Or if you’d like a planting plan of seasonal berries tailored to your garden & palate, we offer virtual gardening advice sessions, workshops & design services. For more on these click here.