Blooms and berries good for everyone

Sometimes, the best-laid plans go awry.

My brother in Alabama once planted a half acre of blueberries backed by commercial blackberry vines.

His intention was to provide fruit for himself, family and friends and leave some for the birds and wildlife.

Things went well until his first hip replacement and the understandable neglect of his project that resulted.

Soon, what he had was an impenetrable bramble of blackberry vines clamboring over the blueberries. He was less than happy, but the birds and other wild creatures loved it.

I learned from his mistake, but if I had even one square foot of plantable space left in my yard, I would spend November planting shrubs for spring and summer bloom that would provide food for the wild things that inhabit my garden.

I think I would start with some virburnums. They bloom wonderfully in spring and cover themselves in berries in late fall and winter. "Cardinal Candy" seems a must-have with its scarlet, glossy fruits. "Blue Muffin" has decorative, delectable-looking berriesm and "Tea Viburnum" even adds fall foliage color to set off the huge clusters of red berries it produces. Wayside Gardens has all these shrubs available.

Pyracantha tries hard in spring to make a statement with its profusion of white flower trusses, but you may take more notice of the pollinators that engulf it than the blooms. Not so in fall and winter. This plant turns into the most obvious one in your garden when the berries mature. It can be espaliered against a wall to great effect or kept in bounds with heavy pruning for a free-standing specimen. Mockingbirds like pyracantha berries a lot.

I would plant some serviceberry, too. Its purplish-black fruits appear in summer on the heels of the white flower clusters in spring. These fruits are edible, but most research suggests that it is difficult to beat the birds to the harvest.

It has the added advantage of good fall color, as well. I planted one once, but in too much shade, and it finally gave up the fight. (If things don't bloom, I don't care if they die.)

Of course, dogwood will meet our criteria for spring bloom and winter food for birds.

Our native dogwood, Cornus florida, is the one to plant for fruiting.

The kousa dogwoods are beautiful, but the raspberry-shaped fruit is largely ignored by wildlife.

Just to be accurate, most virburnums have drupes, not berries, and pyracanthas have pomes, not berries. Birds don't worry about this one way or the other, and I'll bet you don't either.

Winder resident Dora Fleming is a Georgia master gardener. E-mail her at dfleming1@earthlink.net.