Berberis- Barberry

Versatile garden shrubs, often kept in the background, although they deserve attention. Many species bear fine berries, the autumn colouring is often very beautiful and the flowers are by no means unattractive. There are evergreen and deciduous species.

Situation:

Berberis is very tolerant of shade and is therefore suitable for planting under trees, provided they are not too dense. It can also be grown on a north-facing wall and may be used as a hedging plant, either clipped or left untrimmed. It must however be remembered that if the shrub is grown in the shade it will produce far fewer flowers and, consequently, berries, than in the sun. When the shrub is clipped most of the flowers will be lost.

Soil:

The barberry is very undemanding, but for vigorous growth a certain amount of feeding is advisable.

Propagation:

The species are easily raised from seed; garden varieties are increased from cuttings taken in winter. Species which produce suckers can be divided.

Berberis hookeri: To 1.5 m high; bright yellow flowers in late spring. The foliage resembles that of the holly, and is retained in winter. The branches are somewhat angular, reddish to brown; beautiful autumn colouring. Berberis X hybridogagnepainii: Height to 1.5 m; yellow flowers in late spring, and black berries. The evergreen, glossy dark-green foliage provides its chief ornamental value. ‘Chenault’ and ‘Wallich’s Purple’ are beautiful varieties, both are winter-hardy.

Berberis julianae: Height to 2 m; yellow flowers in late spring and early summer followed by blue berries, covered with bloom. The glossy dark-green foliage is retained throughout the winter.

Berberis koreana: Stiff bush to 4.5 m tall, with yellow flowers and red berries. The dull-green leaves turn deep red in the autumn, after which they drop. Berberis X media: Height to 1 m; few flowers, but the glossy, bright-green foliage is decorative and is partially retained in winter. The variety usually cultivated is ‘Jewel of the Park’, which is also useful for hedge making. Berberis X ottawensis: Height to 2 m; flowers yellow and red; red berries. The deciduous foliage is reddish brown. ‘Decora’ and ‘Superba’ are garden varieties. Berberis X stenophylla: Height to 2 m, width at least 3 m; flowers profusely in late spring, the flowers being deep yellow. The black berries are far less conspicuous, and the green leaves are retained in winter. There are several garden varieties which often grow much shorter. Berberis thunbergii: Height to 1.5 m; yellow flowers in late spring and early summer. Bushy shrubs with glossy red berries and fresh green deciduous foliage. A well known variety is ‘Atropurpurea’ with bronze-red foliage and very fine autumn colouring. Both forms are frequently used for hedge making.

Berberis verruculosa: Height to 1.5 m; large, golden-yellow flowers in late spring and early summer. Twigs with yellow thorns, dark-green foliage, blue-grey on the reverse turning red in the autumn, but partly retained in winter.

Berberis vulgaris: Height to 2 m; light yellow flowers in late spring and early summer, dark red berries later. Green deciduous leaves, but reddish-brown in the case of ‘Atro-purpurea’. Tolerates very shady positions. Berberis wilsoniae: Height about 1 m, inconspicuous flowers, but the salmon-red berries are very beautiful. The foliage is grey-green, turning brown-red in the autumn, after which it drops. Not quite so winter-hardy as the other species.

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