The fall brings on a life of its own. Even with the reminder of summer ending and winter beginning, there is refreshment for the eyes – fall color and berries, lots of berries.
Of course there are viburnums, a ton of them, that I can’t go without mentioning as being one of the most festively fall shrubs. There are enough varieties to fit any garden’s needs; it’s just a matter of what one you can’t live without! The possumhaw viburnum (“Viburnum nudum”) has two exceptional varieties with great fall color and fruit. Winterthur is a dwarf introduction from Winterthur Gardens in Delaware reaching six feet tall, boasting glossy green leaves, white flowers April to May, ripening berries from pink to deep blue by late summer to early fall, and deep burgundy red berries in mid to late fall. Brandywine, also a dwarf variety growing to about five to six feet tall, boasts a showier fruit than the Winterthur, with more intense color throughout the berry cluster.
The Kousa Dogwood (“Cornus kousa”) is a small, multi-stemmed, deciduous tree that blooms from May to June. The flowers appear as profuse white clusters covering the tree, maturing into one-inch fruit that adorn the tree late summer and ripen to a coral-red late summer into fall. With beautiful mottled bark in the winter, this tree has a four season rating!
These last two shrubs are two very tough natives, one good for almost any kind of spot and another good for moist areas. This first one is found in our dunes, growing in sand, thriving in it, and tolerating salt spray and flooding. Northern Bayberry (“Myrica pensylvania”) makes a great ornamental in any garden. The female plant grows separately from the male, so if you would like to have berries, be sure to include a male somewhere in the garden. Now is the best time to shop for bayberry and know which plant is the male and which is the female (hint: the female has the berries). The berries are a waxy, light blue berry used mostly for candles and soaps, and they persist through the winter after all plants have lost their leaves. Winterberry is a very well-known fall/winter shrub for its fruitful show, but it is always worth mentioning with new varieties from dwarfs such as Red Sprite, gold berries like Winter Gold, or the hybrid Sparkleberry. Like the bayberry, the winterberry needs a male pollinator, however, depending on what variety of winterberry you choose, you may get a corresponding male partner that blooms with his female counterpart.
Cape Shore Gardens is always full of distinctive plants and a knowledgeable staff. Enjoy walking around the garden center to find a new plant for your garden, or just mosey around appreciating the fall colors, berries and wildlife. The garden center is located at 1028 Rt. 9 S., Cape May Court House. For more information, call at (609) 465-5161.
Written by Lauren Popper, horticulturist at Cape Shore Gardens and graduate of Temple University's School of Environmental Design.