Gardening With Tony
Winter Berries Provide Color As This Autumn
By Tony Tomeo
Nov 7, 2012 - 8:26:53 AM

A Colorado blue spruce[### NEEDS CREDIT###]
Seasonal color is as variable as the weather. Just as the many different spring flowers bloom differently every spring, and the autumn foliage color is different every autumn, the colorful berries and fruits that linger on many plants through winter respond to the weather. Then, the various birds and other animals that devour them do so at different times, and at different rates every year.

Pyracantha (or firethorn) is probably the most reliable for an abundance of brightly colored red berries. Old varieties with orange or even yellow berries are very rare, perhaps because they are comparably wimpy. Unfortunately, because they are so colorful, and also because they ripen before many of the migratory birds have gone, the berries often get eaten by birds soon after they ripen.

Berries of the various cotoneasters are not quite as colorful, and many ripen slightly later, so they are not so efficiently stripped by birds. Cotoneasters are now more popular than related pyracantha because there are so many varieties with so many different growth habits. Larger types grow into large shrubbery while prostrate types grow as ground cover. Cotoneaster also has the advantage of lacking thorns.

The native toyon can provide large clusters of similar red berries, but only if it is allowed to grow somewhat wildly. It is unable to bloom and subsequently produce berries if regularly shorn. Yet, even in the wild, toyon is unpredictable. Because damp weather can cause berries to rot before they ripen, toyon may be unproductive for many years, and then produce remarkably colorful displays of berries when least expected.

Hollies are the most familiar of colorful winter berries, but are not as colorful as pyracantha or the various cotoneasters because they are almost never provided with male pollinators that they require to develop fruit. Fortunately, their remarkably glossy and prickly foliage is appealing alone.

Tree of the Week: Colorado Blue Spruce

Colorado and Utah share the same stately state tree; the Colorado blue spruce, Picea pungens, which is native to the Rocky Mountains between Arizona, New Mexico and southern Idaho. Colorado blue spruce are stoutly conical trees that grow slowly to eventually get more than seventy five feet tall. Where they need to compete with other trees in forests, the biggest are nearly twice as tall with trunks nearly five feet wide. However, because they grow so slowly, and do not get much bigger then they need to, well exposed trees stay proportionate to home gardens for many decades. Many shrubby compact cultivars actually stay less than ten feet tall. Foliage can be grayish green to silvery pale blue. The stiff and sharply pointed needles are about three quarters to an inch and a quarter long, and densely set on relatively rigid stems.

The Canyon Region and mountains of Southern California are comfortable for Colorado blue spruce. However, milder beach climates are marginal, and may inhibit growth, keeping Colorado blue spuce even shorter and more compact than it is naturally. Inland desert climates are too arid and warm.

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