Experienced gardeners know that the change of seasons brings on new and exciting finds. Gardening is much more than the unfolding yellow flowers of forsythia in the spring and the intense red color of burning bush in the fall. Winter is equally as exciting showing us color and texture that we have been waiting for all year. The silence of a white, snowy day helps outline and showcase many of our existing plant materials. Winter gives us a chance to look at the skeletal patterns of our deciduous friends as well as take note of some prominent features associated with their evergreen counterparts. One particular feature that is shared with some deciduous and evergreen plant material is the explosion of colorful fruit that starts in the fall and holds throughout the winter months.
Arguably one of the finest smaller holly types on the market is Ilex x meservae ‘Berri- Magic’. The Meservae hybrids are a gift given to gardeners by Mrs. F. Leighton Meserve of St. James, NY. She crossed I. rugosa (Prostrate Holly) with I. aquifolium (English Holly). Berri-Magic, a marketing artifice by Monrovia Growers, has taken all the guess work out of deciphering the gender of hollies. Simply put, it is a male/female holly, a hermaphrodite of the botanical community. With lustrous, dark blue-green leaves and rich purple stems, Berri-Magic produces an abundance of red fruit on its own. Suitable for small and large gardens, Berri-Magic guarantees pollination and fruit.

Monrovia Growers, one of the finest horticultural “Craftsmen” in the country, has identified three varietals in the ‘Berri-Magic’ series. While all benefit from sun to part shade, there are subtle differences discerning the three types. Ilex x meservae ‘Mesdoh & ‘Mesog’ is a China Boy and China Girl that is a moderate grower, comfortably finishing eight feet by eight feet. Extremely dense branching is ensured as this is grown from cuttings. The next is ‘Blue Boy’ and ‘Blue Girl’ (Berri-Magic Kids). Slightly less vigorous, this one finishes closer to six to eight feet and only three to six feet wide. Finally, ‘Blue Prince’ and ‘Blue Princess’ (The Royalty Holly Combination), finishes closer to the China ‘Boy/Girl’ collection. However, dark blue-green foliage and purple stems make for more interesting holiday decorating. While all three are fine candidates for your next landscape project, offering heavy fruit in the colder months, remember that they are all evergreen and thus, will benefit from a coating of an anti-desiccant for winter protection.

Deciduous plants are left to their own merits in the winter. It’s sink or swim for our leafless friends. There is nothing to hide behind! And when a plant comes along with a profusion of purple berry clusters, wetting our appetites the way a cluster of fresh picked Cabernet Sauvignon grapes does to a wine enthusiast, we respectfully acknowledge it as “Beautyberry”. Callicarpa americana (American Beautyberry) is an outstanding deciduous shrub that grows six to eight feet tall. In the spring, tiny lilac flowers appear. But let’s face it; this plant is coveted for its electric, violet to magenta berries. These ¼” fruits stick together in clusters on the branches like sprinkles on a cake. Found commonly throughout the Southeastern United States, “Beautyberry” or “French Mulberry” is also found in Mexico, and the West Indies. Extremely adaptable, Callicarpa ideally likes filtered light and well drained soil. A favorite of mine for mass planting, “Beautyberry is a great low maintenance shrub. Believed to bear more fruit if planted among friends, Callicarpa is also a significant food source for wildlife. Several relatives are also noteworthy when looking for winter berries. C. japonica (Japanese Beautyberry), C. bodinieri (Bodinier Beautyberry) and C. dichotoma (Purple Beautyberry) all have unique gifts to bring to the table.

Spring may have its forsythia, summer has its impatiens and fall has its “Mums”, but
the winter holds its own with outstanding colorful fruit. Simply put, don’t dismiss the winter month’s offerings just because a flower is not present.

Robert LaHoff
Hall’s Garden Center