The Ashridge Nurseries Blog

Autumn blaze part two: Hedges and berries

Sorbus cashmiriana

The cream berries of Sorbus cashmiriana
as autumn approaches

It's not just trees that can provide a colourful spectacle through these colder autumn months; there are many shrubs and hedges that create marvel and drama in the autumn garden.

As the nights draw in it is easy to become downhearted at the thought of the winter to come. But as the weather cools a miraculous transformation is beginning. Hedges and shrubs are slowly making their preparations for dormancy by stopping the flow of fluids in to their leaves.

This means that the green chlorophyll that usually masks out any other pigments present is diminished. The result is the phenomenon known as autumn colour.

A brisk walk on a chilly sunny day as the sun shines low in the sky while the countryside around you blazes with golds and reds is a breathtaking experience, and completely lifts any gloom at the passing summer.


Sorbus family

Sorbus aucuparia

The familiar bright red berries of Sorbus aucuparia

The Sorbus family have a lot to offer a garden as autumn gets underway.

Their vibrant clusters of berries are often left long after the leaves have fallen to decorate the bare branches through the autumn and into winter. That is, if the birds don't get there first!

And colours are not limited to the red berries of the native Sorbus acuparia:

Their size makes them suitable for all but the smallest of gardens, all measuring around 10 meters when fully grown.



The stunning berries of the
Spindleberry (Euonymus europaeus)

One of the most dazzling of these is the Spindleberry (Euonymus europaeus), which can be grown as a large shrub or a small tree of up to 6 meters.

Its leaves turn to stunning bloodshot crimson with the onset of the cold, but it is the unusual fruit that make it so intriguing.

Fuchsia pink berries split open like brightly wrapped parcels to reveal its brilliant tangerine seeds inside.

These shrubs work wonderfully as specimens in a woodland setting in dappled shade, as well as within a mixed native hedgerow.


Viburnum opulus

Viburnum opulus

Showers of red berries on the
Guelder rose (Viburnum opulus)

Another shrub with exquisite autumn colour is Viburnum opulus.

Its leaves turn vibrant rusty claret and its pompom flowers produce clusters of attractive berries that the birds love.

As a native shrub it is very easy to grow, and will survive pretty much anywhere.

But for the best show of flowers (and therefore more berries later!) it likes a nice sunny spot.

They will grow as specimens up to around 5 meters, but also make a great addition to a country hedge.


Berberis thunbergii

Berberis thunbergii

Wonderful contrast of creamy flowers and deep plum
leaves of Berberis thunbergii 'Atropurpurea'

Berberis thunbergii 'Atropurpurea' is another showstopper as its plum foliage bursts into a fiery cherry red.

A shrub of up to 3 meters it too can be used as a specimen or hedging plant, and with the benefit of its spiny thorns it provides an impenetrable boundary.

The best time for planting shrubs such as this red barberry is in autumn, when bareroot plants are dormant.

First select a suitable site, bearing in mind that larger trees will need to be kept at a reasonable distance from any buildings. Prepare the ground well by removing all weeds, digging thoroughly and adding plenty of well rotted organic matter and grit if the drainage is poor. Add a general purpose fertiliser or some Rootgrow mycorrhizal fungi to the planting hole. Firm the plant into place. Trees will need staking to support them against the prevailing wind.

It is important to keep plants weed free and watered until established, and they should be mulched and fed in spring. But this little bit of hard work will be worth it as your garden blazes with colour for generations to come!

Happy (autumn) planting!

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