Ask the master gardeners
Q: Can you name a few trees and shrubs that add color and interest to the winter garden?
A: There are a rich variety of trees and shrubs that produce berries for winter interest and are also wonderful for attracting birds. Among the shrubs, the American cranberry viburnum (Viburnum trilobum) exhibits clusters of brilliant red fruit, which remain into late winter and provide food for birds.
Winterberry (Ilex verticillata) is a deciduous holly with a rounded upright shape. It produces small greenish-white flowers in late spring and then bright red berries in late summer to fall that provide stunning color throughout most of the winter. Winterberry branches are beautiful in winter floral arrangements.
Winterberry at the NY Botanical Garden (file staff photo):
Red chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia ‘Brilliantissima’) is a 6- to 10-foot tall, widely adaptable shrub with brilliant red fruit that lasts into winter. Its fruit is not a favorite food for birds.
The northern bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica) is a hardy shrub that produces gray-blue waxy berries that last throughout winter and into spring. (File staff photo.)
The female cultivar ‘Myda’ and male ‘Myriman’ make a good pair for winter color and for attracting birds.
Among the trees that produce winter berries are the common persimmon (Diospyros virginiana), a deciduous tree with small orange fruits; the American mountain ash (Sorbus americana); and the Cockspur hawthorn (Crataegus crusgalli). All are excellent sources of bird food throughout the winter. All the above shrubs and trees are dioecious; therefore, both male and female plants are required for berry production.
Another idea for an attractive winter garden is to plant roses that produce interesting hips, which are also a source of food for animals. (AP photo.)
For added winter interest, try planting trees and shrubs with colorful bark such as the American beech tree (Fagus grandiflora), which has smooth silver-gray bark. The tatarian dogwood (Cornus alba sibirica) exhibits bright purple-red bark, while the golden willow (Salix alba vitellina) has a lovely orange-yellow bark all winter.
Alexis Starke, Piermont, master gardener, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Rockland