Forest berries in the garden
The berries are the only color note of the pale cold seasons; the plants strip off their dress of leaves and flowers and the only ornamental decoration consists of their small, persistent and frost-resistant fruits. It is no coincidence that the Christmas tradition sees the twig with the berries as one of the ornamental motifs of decoration: picking a few bunches of berries and trying their hand at building imaginative creations is an interesting artistic / botanical exercise.
What are the native plants of our forests that offer us their berries in winter?
The Cornus mas, known as corniolo, is a shrub of the family of the cornaceae, widespread in the forests of the peninsula and cultivated in our gardens (together with other species of the genus Cornus, with characteristic reddish trunks). It is identifiable by the particular ribbing of the leaves; the berries are drupes (fleshy fruits) edible reddish, which must be harvested in autumn if they are to be used to prepare liqueurs and jams. The berries of the cornel are very rich in vitamins and have important antioxidant properties that are essential for eliminating toxins and waste products from our body. This is a plant often forgotten for the benefit of traditional fruits but which should instead be exploited given its high potential in terms of well-being!
Evonimus europaeus, also known as the priest's cap, is a medium-sized shrub that can easily be seen even at the edges of fields and ditches.
The particularity is in the fruit, a fleshy four-lobed capsule, which resembles a priest's cap, with an inconspicuous color that turns from orange to fuchsia. Unlike the fruit of Corniolo, it is not edible, it is a very poisonous fruit for humans. This species is essential if we want to make a mixed hedge to attract the bird.
Sorbus aria belongs to the rosaceae family, it is a shrub that reaches a few meters in height and grows in dry soils even in low mountain areas. It is easily recognizable by the underside of the leaves which is white and pubescent. The fruit is an edible red / orange apple with a sweet taste and a floury consistency, excellent for flavoring grappa. Hardly cultivable in our gardens, it prefers rocky and mountain environments.
Extremely appreciated by aviofauna, like the rowan tree (S. aucuparia).
The prunus spinosa is a shrub belonging to the rosaceae family, very widespread in the edges of the woods. In spring its blooms color the moats and country roads white; It is recognizable by the thorns that abundantly cover the branches and the small oval leaves that resemble other species of the genus Prunus. In winter it is possible to pick the fruits, which appear as small bluish plums. These drupes are edible and belong to the so-called forgotten fruits, whose collection has fallen into disuse.
Interesting from a medicinal point of view both because they are rich in vitamin C and because of their astringent effect, they have a sour taste, but they are excellent in liqueurs and jams.
In the garden they can be grown in mixed hedges or in dividing hedges, in fact they have long thorns that constitute a natural barrier.
The wild rose, which is found in our forests, is a woody shrub, very similar to roses grown in gardens; its natural form intertwines ramifications around nets and other plants sometimes forming dense barriers. It is easy to find it near populations of Prunus s ... The berry is an orange rosehip that persists throughout the winter. Rich in active ingredients, it has numerous beneficial effects when consumed in jams, grappas and herbal teas (before using them, it is essential to clean the inside seeds and down).
Juniperus communis is a woody shrub, of small size, evergreen, with needle-like leaves. The fruits are small bluish cones, which we commonly call berries. It is possible to collect them and use them for their aromatic and medicinal properties.
It is a plant that lends itself to being cultivated also in our gardens, grouped together to form small hedges, in association with flower beds of aromatic and rock formations. Growth is slow and does not reach impressive dimensions. Associated with boxwood and rosemary it can create very rustic evergreen flower beds.
The Crataegus Monogyna (from the Greek "krаtaigos" which means "strength and robustness") is a small sapling, which also appears as a bush, belonging to the rosaceae family. The berries are edible, small reddish apples that ripen in autumn. Numerous medicinal, antispasmodic, cardioactive and hypotensive properties.
In the garden it can be used both as a dividing hedge, and in mixed hedges for the fauna and still bred as a tree it has a suggestive ornamental value.
The berries of the forest: Winter forest berries in the garden
The main characteristics of all these plants are the production of berries in cold seasons (when colors are scarce in the garden) and their belonging to the group of native Italian species. Nowadays in the garden, design choices that include native species are appreciated again, both for their natural adaptability to the pedoclimatic conditions of our areas, and for a tendency to enhance the Italian botanical heritage: with the inclusion of these species it is given to the garden a peculiar Italian style, a Mediterranean style, in clear contrast with the “exotic” garden, which is very fashionable in recent decades.