Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
December, 2006
Regional Report

Share |

Double your pleasure with white Japanese beautyberry and fuzzy, purple beautyberry.

It's the Berries, Buds, and Hips!

Wave your gardening gloves if your roses are still blooming! They're likely to be landscape roses such as 'Lady Elsie May', with coral flowers and buds, and the original Knock Out rose (also known as 'Radrazz') with cherry-red petals and purple-green autumn-chilled foliage. The 2007 peachy Rainbow Knock Out is still flowering sparsely in Philadelphia suburbs, although it has some black spot that's absent from its cousin, the original single-petalled Knock Out. What landscape roses lack in individual flower appeal, they certainly make up for in extended beauty from early summer into December!

Raise your trowel (Hurray!) if your roses have hips -- those plump orange or tomato-red fruits packed with nutrients for the birds and us. Rosa rugosa hips are red, marble-sized fruits that easily catch our eye. Other roses have hips of different sizes, shapes, and colors. Each hip is a collection of seeds and pulp packed with vitamins C, E, B, K, proteins, oils, pectin, carotene, antioxidants, and more. It's no wonder birds favor them, especially after a couple of hard frosts concentrate their sugars.

The oval dog rose (white-flowered Rosa canina) hip is said to have a very high vitamin C content. During World War II, it was grown and harvested in bomb-ravaged England for citizens to take to prevent scurvy. Rose hips continue to be popular worldwide for their health and cosmetic benefits.

Beauteous Berries
While outdoors, look for berry-covered shrubs before the birds make short work of the nutritious nibbles. Songbirds flock to beautyberry (Callicarpa mollis, C. americana, C. dichtoma) for its prolific, purple autumn fruit that hugs branches long after leaves have dropped. Gardeners appreciate beautyberry's festive fall color, pink spring flowers, and adaptability to sun and dappled shade. For dynamic contrast and texture, plant this and the white-berried Japanese variety, Callicarpa japonica, backed by a stand of evergreens. In zones 5 to 8, beautyberry grows 3 to 4 feet tall and wide. In early spring, cut branches back to 6 inches to encourage new growth and heavy flowering and fruiting.

Native, scarlet-fruited winterberry (Ilex verticillata) drop their leaves by winter. So the bright red berries on female plants steal the show. (Note: a nearby male pollinator shrub is necessary.) Fruits on winterberry last into winter if the birds don't eat them all. Ilex verticillata x Ilex serrata hybrids are becoming popular for their vigorous growth and purplish new leaves. Those fruits discolor by late winter though. There are at least 20 cultivars ranging from 5- to 10-feet tall and wide, mounding or upright, various leaf colors and shapes, various fruit colors. They tolerate poorly drained soils and prefer moist, acidic soils. They grow in full sun to partial shade but more sun means more fruit. For details, see:

Though not a fan of prickly hollies, I'm reconsidering since admiring the well-behaved Yule-Brite Koehne holly (Ilex x koehneana 'Conayule'). Its large, golden-edged, green leaves and berry-filled branches make me look beyond the vexingly sharp foliage to a very handsome holiday shrub.

Care to share your gardening thoughts, insights, triumphs, or disappointments with your fellow gardening enthusiasts? Join the lively discussions on our FaceBook page and receive free daily tips!


Today's site banner is by Paul2032 and is called "Osteospermum"