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Robin with Winter Berries
Against a dreary grey landscape or a crisp white coat of snow, glossy berries shine like winter jewels. Planting native deciduous trees and shrubs with overwintering berries is one way to add year-round interest to your yard. Much more than backyard bling, these berries offer an important food source for native birds and other wildlife during frosty months.
 

 

If your yard is looking winter-drab, now is a perfect time to consider adding shrubs for winter colour next year. Take a walk in your neighbourhood and get inspired by shrubs still dotted with red, orange and black berries. Some attention-getters like evergreen holly, (the Christmas icon), are introduced species to Ontario. Others are native species which are an essential link in the local food chain for wildlife such as overwintering birds like robins, grosbeaks and waxwings. Some of these native shrubs are available through LEAF’s planting programs.

Cedar Waxwing with Berries

Cedar waxwing with berries

 

The six shrubs featured below usually stay decked out all winter in colourful edible berries.

 

  1. Black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa)- Bluish-black glossy berries cover this open, upright, rounded shrub. While the berries taste bitter to us, birds and other wildlife enjoy them as a cold weather food source.

    Black Chokeberry Fruit

    Black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) fruit

  2. Highbush Cranberry (Viburnum trilobum)- Bright, tart, red berries on this dense, rounded shrub mature in late summer/early fall and persist into the winter if not often picked off by birds or heavy frosts. 

    Highbush Cranberry Winter Berries

    Winter berries of Highbush cranberry (Viburnum trilobum)

  3. Nannyberry (Viburnum lentago)- Oblong bluish-black berries contrast with red to purple foliage in the fall on this large, upright shrub.

    Nannyberry fruit

    Nannyberry (Viburnum lentago) fruit

  4. Pagoda Dogwood (Cornus alternifolia)- A beautiful large shrub or small tree all year around. While it does not have the striking red or yellow bark many people associate with dogwoods, the pagoda boasts multi-season interest. Large clusters of white flowers that turn into bluish-black berries which are excellent for winter wildlife. 

    Pagoda Dogwood Fruit

    Pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia) berries

  5. Common Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus)- Snow white, waxy berries dot this shrub from late summer to early winter, providing shelter and food for many native birds. 

    Common snowberry fruit

    Common snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus) fruit

  6. Pasture Rose (Rosa carolina)- Shiny red rose hips are eye-catching in a winter garden and provide a late season food source for wildlife. If you love the pink roses growing wild along country roads, you’re familiar with this sweet scented classic shrub.

    Pasture rose fruit

    Pasture rose (Rosa carolina) fruit

To order these and other shrubs delivered to your door, visit our website.



The Backyard Tree Planting Program is supported by York Region, City of Markham, Town of Newmarket, Town of Ajax, City of Toronto, and Toronto Hydro.

 

A lifelong gardener, Andrea Bannister is a freelance communicator and mom of three outdoor-loving kids in Toronto, Ontario. Andrea is a new volunteer with LEAF.  

 

Comments

Hello: I have taken the LEAF program and thank you for all you do, it was great. My question is ,where do I purchase good quality tress and shrubs in the Peterborough area that would help the wildlife and would be suitable for Zone 5. Thank you Cindy Sweeting
Hi Cindy! Thank you so much for the kind words! With regards to purchasing trees and shrubs in the Peterborough area, we suggest you check out www.landscapeontario.com and enter your address to see the nursery and garden centre listings near you! When purchasing stock, remember to make sure the plants you choose fit well with the soil and sunlight conditions in your yard. To see which plants are great for wildlife, check out our tree and shrub species profiles on the LEAF website or the plant resources section on the Landscape Ontario website! Thanks and good luck!

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