Where Have All the Berries Gone?
Autumn is about fruit. Mists and mellow fruitfullness, as the poet said. In the garden, there’s fruit for people and fruit for the birds. I have lots of the latter.
This year I noticed that lots of the fruit that is supposed to hang around so we can admire it for a while has been gone in a flash.
Of course, some fruits you expect to disappear quickly. Gray Dogwood, for example, has white drupes that are eaten by birds almost immediately upon ripening. You see the unripe green ones – then they’re gone, eaten up by cardinals, woodpeckers, and other birds.
(I hate to get all botanical, but fruits with a single seed are generally drupes, not berries. Cherries, also, are actually drupes. So you could say that life is just a bowl of drupes, though that doesn’t have the same ring to it. Why am I pointing this out? Because I paid good money for that botany class, damn it.)
Same thing with my Black Elderberries (Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis). Elderberries are also drupes, so they should be called Elderdrupes.
The Elderdrupes are green and unripe, then they’re gone.
But other plants are supposed to have persistent fruit. Cranberrybush Viburnum (Viburnum opulus var americanum), for example. The shiny red fruit are extremely ornamental and extremely sour. The garden books say that birds won’t eat the fruit until after a freeze, often not until late winter.
Somebody forgot to tell the birds, though. In my garden, all the Cranberrybush drupes were gone by the middle of September.
Fortunately, Cranberrybush has nice red and purple foliage in late fall, plus it’s a host plant for the Spring Azure butterfly.
Then there’s my ‘Donald Wyman’ crabapple. (Crabapples, like apples, are pomes. As in “I think that I shall never see/a pome as lovely as a tree.” Ironically, pomes grow on trees.)
Anyway. Experts will tell you that ‘Donald Wyman’ crabapples will stay on the tree until spring. At 1/2″, they are too big for most birds. In the past that seems to have been the case in my garden.
But this year the birds changed their minds. By the end of September all the ‘Donald Wyman’ cranberries were gone.
In July I planted a new ‘Golden Raindrops’ crabapple. Birds are supposed to love the yellow 1/4″ fruit. The new crabapple has just a few fruits, but the birds have ignored them so far.
What’s your favorite ornamental fruit for fall and winter?