Red, White, and Blue Berries

What kind of fruit comes in red, white, and blue? Berries, of course!

Blueberries are a huge treat. Our daughter in western Washington grows them by the bucketful, although our granddaughters have a habit of grazing on them in the backyard, so they don’t always make it into the kitchen.

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Creeping Mahonia

mahonia-aquifolium-compacta_oregon-grape_dbg-co_lah_4128When you have a smaller yard, you want every plant to earn its keep. With fragrant yellow flowers, blue berries, and green leaves that turn purple in winter, Creeping Mahonia (aka Oregon Grape, Mahonia repens) definitely deserves a spot!

These are low-growing plants, about 12” to 18” tall, with underground stems (stolons) that spread up to three feet in width.  Spring brings an abundance of small, deep yellow flowers, attractively set off by the dark green leaves. By late summer, these mature into clusters of small, dusty-blue berries that are sour but edible. (A similar species, M. haematocarpa, has red berries). The holly-like foliage persists into winter, turning a lovely plum with the advent of cold weather.

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Pretty, Pretty Coralberry

Symphoricarpos x doorenbosii 'Kordes' Amethyst_Coralberry_DBG_LAH_3100fLots of plants have pretty flowers or showy berries, are drought tolerant, handle clay soil, take full sun or part shade, or tolerate deer browsing on them. But how many plants have all these qualities? Coralberries are clear winners when it comes to choosing plants for our gardens. In fact, the only drawback comes when we try to pronounce their scientific name: Symphoricarpos orbiculatus!

If you’re into plants, you might recognize the genus. Symphoricarpos also includes Snowberries, S. albus, and the plants are fairly similar.

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Colorado’s “Holly”

Pyracantha berries@ColoSpgs LAH 131We’ve succumbed—an artificial tree, fake garlands, silk poinsettias. As I pull our Christmas bins out of storage, I wonder—how did a gardener stoop this low? Isn’t there something Christmas-y I can grow here in Colorado? It would be so nice to simply go outside and snip a few branches to grace our mantle.

While holly isn’t really adapted to our high and dry conditions, and the mistletoe growing in the Ponderosa pines differs from the pretty parasites of England, there is one plant that not only produces red berries in December, it’s one of the very few broad-leafed evergreens to survive in Zone 5!

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Beyond Fall Foliage

Want to add autumn interest to your garden? Frost has arrived and flowers are finishing their season, but we don’t have to settle for a boring landscape. Even in Colorado, it’s possible to create a garden that is beautiful all year.

Colorful foliage is everywhere this time of year, but there’s more to fall than just leaves, no matter how spectacular they might be. Look for bright berries, persistent seedheads, and even colorful or thorny bark and branches.

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Ho, Ho, Holly

ilex_holly-berries“Deck the balls with boughs of holly” might work well in Merry Olde England, or even in the eastern U.S., but it’s not very practical at my house,  just north of Colorado Springs, Colorado. We have too much sunshine, the air and soil is too dry, and our soils are too lean and too alkaline. Holly won’t survive winter’s dessicating winds. At least, that’s what I learned when we moved here.

So imagine my surprise a couple of weeks ago when I was out for a walk in a near-by subdivision, and there were two bushes, covered with green leaves and red berries, planted in the strip of soil between the sidewalk and the street. Could it be?

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Staghorn Sumac

sumac-fall-color-colospgs-6oct2005-lah-004s

When most plants are finishing up for the season, Staghorn Sumac is just coming into its prime. During the growing season, the plant’s sturdy brown stems support  leaves a foot or more in length, with many 4-inch leaflets, all grass-green. But in the fall, its brilliant red-orange fall foliage sets the landscape on fire.

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