|Published December 22, 2021|
|Digging Deep with Goddess Gardener, Cynthia Brian A berry, merry Christmas … mostly to the birds|
|By Cynthia Brian|
|Holly is one of the most famous holiday berries used in wreaths. Photos Cynthia Brian|
“To me, the garden is a doorway to other worlds; one of them is, of course, the world of birds. The garden is their dinner table, bursting with insects and worms and juicy berries.” ~ Anne Raver
Birdy, it’s cold outside.
Deciduous trees are barren of leaves, autumn perennials have completed their flowering cycle, and few flowers adorn the landscape. The glittering ornaments that adorn the foliage are a gastro delight for birds.
Winter has arrived and with it the beautiful berries that are a vital food source for birds as well as a traditional decoration of Christmas wreaths and garlands. When we think of berries, we usually conjure up images of blackberries, blueberries, raspberries or strawberries, all grown and harvested in the warmer months. Winter berries are diverse, and although they are a small fleshy fruit, they are mostly enjoyed by wildlife, with a few edible exceptions that are eaten by humans.
My garden boasts a wealth of winter berries that encourage my feathered friends to hang around during the holidays. Finches, moorhens, redbirds, sparrows, jackets, quail, pigeons, bluebirds and orioles are attracted to the many varieties of berries that will provide their nourishment during a cold and harsh winter. A few of my favorites include pyracantha, cotoneaster, viburnum, pepper, Chinese pistachio, rosehip, holly, yew and barberry. Of these, only the peppers and rose hips are consumed by my family. Although pomegranates are not a berry, their jewel-red seeds called arils remind me of small berries, and I grow them in my garden. Pomegranates are a staple of the Christmas fruit basket because of their festive holiday colors. The arilli are filled with antioxidants, potassium, fiber, vitamins and minerals, which provide a boost to keep us healthy. Add them to salads, make a chutney, or stir a splash of juice into a glass of sparkling wine for a festive, flavorful treat.
The beautiful pink peppercorns from a California pepper tree are a gourmet’s desire. Since these trees are grown as ornamentals, many people are not aware that their berries are edible with a fruity spice profile that complements several recipes. They can be dried or used fresh. I have found the best way to paint them is with my mortar and pestle because their paper thin shells get trapped in my twist grinder. When I make casseroles or soups, I throw the whole berry, called a drupe, because it is a single seed, in the casserole. If you buy pink peppercorns, be prepared to pay $ 10-15 per ounce. Consider planting a California pepper tree that will grow to 30 feet tall and wide if you have the room.
Even though it’s mid – December, my roses continue to bloom. This month I am no longer dead-head my bushes as I want rose hips to form. Since roses are in the same family as apples and crab apples, the taste of rose hips mimics the acidity of crab apples. Rosehip seeds / berries have strong disease-fighting properties and are full of vitamin C. After washing your hips, you can use them to make jellies, teas, syrups, soups and desserts.
For the birds.
When looking through leaves and decorating trees and shrubs, winter berries are nature’s Christmas decoration. As beautiful as they are, the most critical element in growing these plant extracts in your garden is the nutritional diet they provide the birds and other wildlife during the coldest season of the year, when food sources are limited. There are several other autumn-ripe berry-bearing shrubs or vines that still have shrunken fruit hanging, such as grapes and elderberries, which can be left for the birds. Here is a selection of lively berry dinners to suit the birds.
Cotoneaster appeared as a volunteer in my garden, most likely from seeds brought in by birds. It is an evergreen shrub that grows into a tree if not pruned properly with white flowers in spring, which is a magnet for bees and rich red berries in winter which is a delicacy for birds. Deer munch on the branches, which do not bother the bush. Cotoneaster is refractory and can be propagated from cuttings, although I have found that when one cotoneaster is in a landscape, others appear to germinate like weeds.
Holly has shiny leaves that are either serrated or have pointed teeth. Because most hollyhocks are dandelions, you will need to plant both a male and a female for cross-pollination if you want the glorious red berries to decorate garlands, wreaths and Christmas trees. English holly and American holly are the two species most used during the holidays. Although holly berries tend to begin to ripen in the fall, most birds, including sunbirds and song thrushes, do not begin to eat them until late winter, when other food is scarce.
Chinese pistachio is one of my favorite trees because of its vibrant autumn color of yellows and oranges with attractive berries that transform from green to aqua, to pink and finally magenta. Birds, turkeys, quails and squirrels go berserk after the clusters of berries hanging from the branches. I add a few sprays to my Christmas tree when the chickens and spokes are kind enough to leave me a few clusters.
Pyracantha may be the preferred winter base for red roots. Birds flock to the orange-red berries called pomes and eat so many that they seem intoxicated. Known as fire thorn, pyracantha is a fast-growing plant with sharp thorns. Volunteers germinate in unusual places thanks to the birds that spread their seeds. Keep pyracantha pruned and use branches with berries in holiday arrangements.
Viburnum shrubs and hedges add beauty to any garden. They produce pink-white flowers that bloom from spring to late fall, depending on the species. Birds love to munch on berries that ripen in the winter with colors that are black, blue, purple, bright red, neon pink and even yellow. Some species are edible by humans, but other species can be poisonous. Unless you know the viburnum you planted is edible, leave the berries to the birds.
Strawberry red meat called arils are sweet and safe for birds. The grooves provide the nutrients that the airplanes need. The seed inside is deadly, and birds by discarding it. Often called the Tree of Death, all parts of the yew tree are poisonous except arils. The taxa’s highly toxic taxane alkaloids have been developed as anti-cancer drugs.
Not for the birds or any animal
Nandina adds multi-season interest to any garden with its nectar-rich white flowers that attract pollinators followed by clusters of green berries that ripen to shiny pink in late fall. The lace leaves appear purple, then turn green and then change to red and purple throughout the year. As much as I love this ornamental shrub, it is important to know that the berries are deadly to birds, wildlife and domestic animals. Most birds avoid this plant innately, but the voracious eaters, cedar wax wings, are susceptible to sucking until intoxicated. The berries contain cyanogenic glycosides that are converted to hydrogen cyanide when ingested.
WARNING: When planting berry-bearing shrubs, be aware that most provide food for wildlife, but can be poisonous, poisonous or even deadly when ingested by humans. Never put herbal substances in your mouth unless you are sure it is edible.
There is still time to give the gifts that keep on giving by purchasing one of my award winning books from www.CynthiaBrian.com/online-store. The proceeds go to the charity for literacy, empowering women, families and young people, Be the Star You Are! R 501 c3 (www.BetheStarYouAre.org)
You will receive many extra gifts with each purchase.
Bird landscape your garden by cultivating a bird-friendly sanctuary with berry-producing flora that birds will love. Take a walk in a winter wonderland of wildlife and have a berry, Merry Christmas. with the birds!
Blessings to all and ho, ho, ho!
Happy gardening. Happy growth. Good holiday!
|Cotoneaster berries provide a winter bird buffet. Photos Cynthia Brian|
|Nandina, also known as celestial bamboo, is poisonous and deadly to all wildlife and livestock. Photos Cynthia Brian|
|Pyracantha berries are a favorite dinner for red roots. Photos Cynthia Brian|
|Viburnum berries are a satisfying food for feathered friends, and some species are edible by humans. Photos Cynthia Brian|
|Gooseberries are poisonous with the exception of the red berries.|
|Pink peppercorns from the California pepper tree add tasty, mild flavor to the food.|
|Pistachios are great for decorating Christmas trees if they are not first eaten by birds and squirrels.|
|Cynthia Brian wishes you a very Merry Christmas. Cynthia Brian, The Goddess Gardener, can be hired to help you prepare your conservatory. Cynthia grew up in the vineyards of Napa County and is the New York Times bestselling author, actress, radio personality, lecturer, media and writing coach, as well as the founder and CEO of Be the Star You Are! R 501 c3. Listen to Cynthia’s StarStyler Radio Broadcast at www.StarStyleRadio.com. Buy copies of her books, including Chicken Soup for the Gardener’s Soul, Grow with the Goddess’s Gardener, and Be the Star You Are! www.cynthiabrian.com/online-store. Receive a FREE inspirational music DVD and special savings. Hire Cynthia for writing projects, garden consultations and inspirational lectures. Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com www.GoddessGardener.com|