The Ripening Fruits of August

It seems a melancholy thing that summer is slipping away into fall. I especially regret seeing the daylight hours slowly shortening with each sunset.

Crabapple Donald Wyman
‘Donald Wyman’ Crabapples

On the other hands, there are compensations for us and for the suburban wildlife around us. For people, there are plentiful peaches and tomatoes, cooler temperatures, fewer mosquitos (or at least slower ones that are easier to slap).

For the birds and other wildlife, there is the promise of a great bounty of berries and other fruits. These may not be ripe just yet, but the signs of ripeness are there to be seen. These are the ripening fruits in our garden right now.

2013-08-11 11.35.23

Like apples, crabapples have years of alternating light and heavy yield. This is year of heavy yield, and the branches of the ‘Donald Wyman’ crab are weighed down with fruit. They are ripening, not yet ripe, and will be eaten through the fall and into the winter by many birds.

Black Elderberry
Black Elderberry

The huge clusters of Elderberries (Sambucus canadensis) are turning from green to black. They are another favorite with many birds. An unruly suckering plant, we keep ours in the corner of the back garden, behind the Siberian Elm (Ulmus pumila).

Cranberrybush Viburnum
Cranberrybush Viburnum berries ripening

Cranberrybush Viburnum (Viburnum opulus var. americanum) berries are gradually turning bright red. These are eaten by Cedar Waxwings and other birds, especially after a hard frost.

Grey Dogwood
Unripe Grey Dogwood berries.
Grey Dogwood
Ripe Grey Dogwood berries. The pedicels eventually turn bright red.

Grey Dogwood (Cornus racemosa) berries, high in calories, are a highly valued fruit for migrating birds. Most are still green, but you can see the first ripe white ones, though they quickly disappear. I was dismayed to see a squirrel gorging on the berries, both green and white, over the weekend. He ignored me when I said they were not for him.

Wild Currant
Wild Currant berries are black when ripe. Edible but sour.

Wild Currant (Ribes americanum) ripens slowly throughout the summer. They are edible for people, but I let the Robins and Cardinals take the lion’s share.

Do you grow fruiting plants for the birds?

44 Comments on “The Ripening Fruits of August”

  1. Jason, I love your post! you told much about different berries and I agree we have to let birds eat vitamins in cold winter. I grow chokeberry bushes and elderberries for birds too. I often watch the waxwings eating berries in winter.

  2. We have a new crab apple tree we planted last year. It doesnยดh have that many apples due to the dry summer maybe? and also several elderberry bushes.
    I also get a little sad that the summer is almost over. But at the same time I have lots of plans for rearranging plants and am also looking for new bulbs for spring.
    I can see that you are a great bird lover ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. We have a few self-set Mahonia bushes that I’d love to pull out, but the bees love the flowers and the birds have just started harvesting the berries! You have a bird’s 4-star restaurant there! I bet they’re queuing up already! We also have plenty of elder and wild apples in the woods next to us.

    • I have never seen Mahonia but I have read it is very popular with birds. We don’t have elderberries growing wild in our suburban town, but there are lots of mullberries growing along alleys – they are considered a trash tree but the birds do love the fruits.

  4. I’m a great fan of shrubs and trees for autumn and winter interest. Have a beautiful Malus Butterball in my Swiss garden, then Amelanchier (delicious and I try to get some for myself), species roses, Euonymus, Callicarpa, Symphoricarpos, Sorbus vilmorinii (well, all Sorbus really)…there’s such a choice – all we lack in is the space to grow them all ๐Ÿ˜‰

  5. Hey Jason,
    Great post, my learned friend. Berries and crabapples are some of the big reasons autumn is my favorite season. Back home we had an autumn but it was mild compared to here and only thing I recall is berries on nandina.

  6. OH my, BERRIES! ๐Ÿ˜€ Great photos, I wish I have a huge garden to plant them, I love making cheesecakes with berries, but it seems here in Greece, berries are not so popular, I mean in the part I am living… anyway love your post!

  7. You’re being quite kind and generous to your feathered friends by providing them so many tasty treats.

    We have a few shrubs designated solely for the birds, mostly black currants (Ben Sarek) that were deemed not tasty enough for human consumption. That’s generally how I operate, if something turns out to not be tasty enough for people, it is left un-netted and the birds get it. As such the birds seem to generally root for me to fail in my plant choices or make hasty decisions so that they end up with the spoils.

  8. I have — pear, dogwood, pokeweed, grapes, strawberries, longonberries, beach plum, raspberry/blackberry and chokerberry — most goes to the birds and squirrels and ants only — we hardly get to eat anything ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. When I design gardens, I always include berry producers to aid the birds. What I find is that unless a full hedge row of them are planted, the specimen plants are stripped clean in Fall. In my own garden, the Viburnum and crabapple do not make it to winter. The pear does though. But this is not a problem either, because many birds that migrate fatten up at this time of year and need all the nourishment they can find. So any garden benefits from adding plants like you mentioned.

  10. Look at all of those beautiful berries!!! So gorgeous in their simplicity! You just inspired me to make a painting based on berries! They make me so happy when I see them! I enjoy the little purple berries on my beauty berry. Have a great week Jason! I

  11. Hi Jason, I’m also noticing the shorter days and cooler nights I can almost sense the garden gradually slowing down and beginning the slide into Autumn, however, before that, we’re having a spectacular display of stargazer lilies and echinacea, the roses may also try a few flowers too. The lavender is still going strong too.

  12. Your crabapples mention reminds me of my garden mentor, who died over a decade ago well into her nineties.She always had beautiful Crabapples and shared lots of delicious jelly. I image the birds got a share also. The Cranberrybush Viburnum is attractive. Enjoy these final days of summer. Susie

  13. There’s still plenty of summer left . . . I am in denial! I used to feel kind of sad as summer drew to a close, but as I get older, I just go with the flow. I actually kind of enjoy the gardening break over the winter.

    We have lots of bird berries here – some of the same ones you have. This year I’m harvesting some of the elderberries, simmering them with some echinacea leaves, cinnamon sticks, and local honey – making elderberry syrup for winter colds. It tastes really good so we’ll see if it lasts until winter!

  14. We have lots of red-flowering currant berries, but the birds seem to avoid them until the last minute. I think they must be one of those foods they leave until there’s nothing better to munch on! The snow-berries are already coming on and the salal has been fruiting for awhile. Does setting out unshelled peanuts for the Stellar Jays count?

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