Try out berries that aren’t just for the birds

Hawthorn berries
Hawthorn berries
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Plenty of berries in autumn means a hard winter ahead. That, at least, is one old wife’s tale. If it’s true we are in for a taste of Siberia because trees 
and shrubs are weighed down.

While birds (and blackbirds in particular) go into a feeding frenzy over cotoneaster berries, and starlings, redwings and fieldfares play havoc with the fruits of mountain ash, there are many more shrubs and trees which are left alone.

So, plant a cotoneaster or a mountain ash by all means, but when you’ve got over your moment of charity and generosity, look at what the birds leave alone – and plant them. A hawthorn hedge will not only deter man and beast; it will produce flowers in spring and berries in autumn.

Many hollies (Ilex) will do the same, as will Pyracanthas (firethorns, featured last week). Stranvaesia? It’s a member of the Photinia family and if you haven’t got plenty of space, you’ll do best to avoid it.

For something way smaller and far more accommodating, there’s always the old favourite, Skimmia, a lovely little shrub rich in berries.

And then there’s Pernettya, the prickly heath, with berries like pearls. It may stretch to reach three feet in height but it is a bit fussy about what it grows in – it needs an acidic soil.