Berry Enjoyable!

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As Winter really starts to dig its claws in here in the gardens at Chartwell, there is still plenty to enjoy amongst the frosted foliage of our plants, as some of them really start to put on an off-season show. Berries are taking centre stage on many trees and shrubs right now and it’s not only the likes of the festive holly that are grabbing our visitors’ attention.

This red-berried Ilex aquifolium...

This red-berried Ilex aquifolium

...can be found near the Pet Graves next to this much more interesting but less traditional Ilex aquifolium 'Bacciflava'

…can be found near the Pet Graves next to this much more interesting but less traditional Ilex aquifolium ‘Bacciflava’

Right, first the science bit. The botanical definition of a berry is a fleshy fruit produced from a single flower ovary. Grapes are such an example. The berry is the most common type of fleshy fruit in which the entire ovary wall ripens into an edible layer, called the pericarp. A plant that bears berries is said to be bacciferous or baccate. In fact, a fruit that resembles a berry, whether it actually is a berry or not, can also be called “baccate”. In everyday parlance however, “berry” is a term we often use for any small edible fruit.

Sarcococca confusa

Sarcococca confusa

The Sarcococca shrub seen above, also known as Christmas Box, can be found at the bottom of the Winter Border, which we discussed in detail last Winter in a series of blog posts that you can revisit by clicking here, here and here. As you will see in this blog though, there are plenty of berries to point your camera at all over Churchill’s gardens.

This Skimmia japonica subsp. reevesiana near the front of the House can always be relied on to produce a good show...

This Skimmia japonica subsp. reevesiana near the front of the House can always be relied on to produce a good show…

... while the Sorbus hupehensis trees on the Top Terrace are particular favourites of mine and many others.

… while the Sorbus hupehensis trees on the Top Terrace are particular favourites of mine and many others.

This Pyracantha on the Iris Walk is absolutely laden!

And this Pyracantha on the Iris Walk is absolutely laden!

Berries are not just pretty Winter baubles for us to gawk at however. They are an important food source for many birds, especially when the ground is too frozen to hunt worms or snails, and there are few insects about. Some birds, like song and mistle thrushes, blackbirds, redwings and fieldfares, find most of their winter food from berries in fact. Some plants use berries as a clever way to entice birds and other animals to distribute their seeds. A plant that produces berries surrounds its seed in juicy, fleshy pith, rewarding the birds that eat them with vitamins and energy. The fact that the seed might pass through the digestive system of the bird quite a distance from the parent tree means that the plant is able to spread itself over quite a wide range. Some berry seeds, like those of juniper, will actually grow better after passing through a bird’s gut, which removes natural chemical inhibitors that would otherwise prevent the seed from germinating.

This Viburnum davidii near the Top Pond has amazingly unusual steel blue berries...

This Viburnum davidii near the Top Pond has amazingly unusual steel blue berries…

... while this Ampelopsis brevipedunculata growing up the side of the house has coloured gems ranging from blue to purple

… while this Ampelopsis brevipedunculata growing up the side of the house has coloured gems ranging from blue to purple

If you look hard enough, you'll also be able to spot some deliciously tinted purple berries on the Lonicera pileata that grows along the entrance path

If you look hard enough, you’ll also be able to spot some deliciously tinted purple berries on the Lonicera pileata that grows along the entrance path

While most berries are either red or black, making them easier for birds and other creatures to find, as you can see from the pictures above, there are plenty of other colours available too! Red is still probably the most common berry colour in the garden however, which seems somehow apt at this festive time of year. Here are some of the best:

This Photinia davidiana var. undulata prostrata is a bit of a mouthful but the berries are superb!

This Photinia davidiana var. undulata prostrata is a bit of a mouthful but the berries are superb! You can find it on the banks in the orchard

The berries of the common Yew tree (Taxus baccata) are always a hit with the birds

The berries of the common Yew tree (Taxus baccata) are always a hit with the birds

The berries of this Lonicera periclymenum 'Graham Thomas' may not steal the headlines like its scented flowers do, but they still look pretty darn good at this time of year!

The berries of this Lonicera periclymenum ‘Graham Thomas’ may not steal the headlines like its scented flowers do, but they still look pretty darn good at this time of year!

This Cotoneaster horizontalis tries to hide its berries behind the reddish leaves.  But seek and ye shall find...

This Cotoneaster horizontalis tries to hide its berries behind the reddish leaves. But seek and ye shall find…

So come on, get your thermals on and pop down to the gardens here at Chartwell and see how many berries you can find before our feathered friends eat them all!

Jamie

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5 Comments

Filed under Plants

5 responses to “Berry Enjoyable!

  1. AliG

    Absolutely brilliant Jamie, one of your best blogs to date! I’ll be down to look at the berries on one of my days off

  2. sally h.

    Very good blog Jamie.You had better put your skates on Ali G before the birds devour them.A holly tree at the back of our garden has been stripped of berries by pidgeon and blackbirds!

  3. Many thanks, Alastair and Sally! Very kind of you both. And you’re right about the birds too…

  4. Chris Dunhill

    Your mention of the word baccate (etc) made me wonder about any connection to BACCALAUREATE, and this is what t’interweb told me:

    1620s, “university degree of a bachelor,” from Medieval Latin baccalaureatus, from baccalaureus “student with the first degree,” altered by a play on words with bacca lauri “laurel berry” (laurels being awarded for academic success).

    Also… BACCHUS:
    Greek god of wine and revelry, late 15c., from Latin Bacchus, from Greek Bakkhos, perhaps related to Latin bacca “berry, olive-berry, bead, pearl.” Perhaps originally a Thracian fertility god.

    Both references c/o http://www.etymonline.com

    Nice bloggin, btw 🙂

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