We usually think of splashes of bright red berries burning through a frosty wintry scene but, although – thankfully – we don't get much hoar frost here, the glow of berries still looks great in a winter garden either brightening up rain-lashed days or sparkling in winter sunshine. Many of these berried delights need more chilling or wetter conditions than we get, but some will give us that essential winter look.
Pyracantha or firethorn. A winter seducer with its branches laden with opulent berries in shades or yellow, orange or red. It's a tough and easy grower and can make great 'keep out' evergreen hedging with its long needle-like thorns. Equally good in springtime when its branches are thickly festooned with white flowers.
Rosa rugosa or Japanese rose. Another very prickly customer, tough, drought, wind and disease resistant, it is also very beautiful. The crinkled green leaves can be semi-evergreen and the flowers, in white or magenta pink, are tissue-paper fine but it's the hips – fatly rounded - that provoke most comments. They are edible too; try cooking them down into an apple-flavoured syrup, full of vitamin C - but you'll have to beat the birds to them. Another great hedger and perfect in very exposed areas.
Cotoneaster horizontalis. Another real toughie and so commonly grown in northern Europe that it doesn't even need a common name and can be somewhat despised for its ubiquity! But its magic is in the flow and curvaceousness of its branches; its horizontal reach forms a precise herringbone pattern. Good in leaf, flower and berry and the birds, at least, appreciate it.
Nandina domestica or heavenly bamboo. A great bamboo substitute with its feathery blue-grey foliage forming lovely shadow patterns. The new foliage emerges bright red then clusters of scented white flowers followed by autumnal leaf colours and long-lasting bright red berries. One of the few plants that can tolerate dry shade and it will attract birds and bees.
Viburnum tinus or laurustinus. An adaptable evergreen shrub, good as a specimen planting or makes excellent tough hedging. Dense dark green foliage is a perfect backdrop to the pink flower buds, opening white and scented. Black berries are loved by birds. In sun, part or full shade, becoming very drought tolerant.
Mahonia x media Charity or Oregon grape. An evergreen holly look-alike with handsome blue-green prickly foliage symmetrically held on spreading branches. The creamy-yellow scented flowers are rather like lily of the valley and the deep purple berries are edible – try them in porridge! Give it space to spread and best with shade.
Skimmia japonica. Compact evergreen shrubs with white scented flowers and shiny red berries when fertilized. Male and female plants are necessary. For shade or part shade, becomes drought tolerant.
Arbutus unedo or strawberry tree. A lovely evergreen shrub or small tree with dark green leathery leaves, scented clusters of white flowers and stunning strawberry-like fruits. These are edible if rather bitter and are mainly used in liqueurs. Lovely caramel peeling bark develops with maturity. A native of the Mediterranean and good in limey soils.
Melia azedarach or Persian lilac. A deciduous tree with ferny foliage turning butter yellow in autumn. The scented lilac-coloured flowers are borne in springtime and develop to honey-yellow dangling fruits – lovely against a blue winter sky. The fruits are poisonous, in quantity, to humans but not to birds though they may become drunk on them. Let them enjoy Christmas too!! These same berries were also used as beads in rosaries.
And don't forget those three traditionals – holly, ivy and mistletoe, the three Kings of Christmastime!
We've great fruits for Christmas presents too. One of the best gifts is something enduring and productive. Why not give a bottle of gin attached to a lemon tree, or we've the much sought after Bramley apple and Victoria plum. And we've kumquat, limequat or the definitely different citrus purscha, Roman lime – a cross between a lime and bitter orange, a prolific sweet and sour fruiter. And we've masses of deliciously scented roses – bare-root but we can pot, label and gift wrap for you – try Celebration Time, Let's Celebrate, the winter cool Iceberg or the perennial favourite Peace. This year, too, we've a very special collection of David Austin roses. Our range of poinsettias is stunning and we've gift vouchers too.
The Garden Centre will be closed from 21st December 2013 until 1st January 2014, inclusive and we'd like to wish you all a wonderful Christmas time.
Lorraine Cavanagh owns the specialist garden centre Viveros Florena, Competa, Malaga (garden centre, designers & landscapers) and is author of the best-selling Mediterranean Garden Plants. See my new book, Citrus, The Zest of Life. Both are on sale at the garden centre or on-line through our web page.-
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June, July, September, 9 – 2, closed for August.
October to May 10 – 4
Always closed Sundays and Mondays.
Closed from 21 December until 1 January inclusive.
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