13 June 2011

Spotlight on Barberries

Emerald Carousel Barberry in the fall (courtesy of Oregon State University)

There are few plants like a barberry (berberis thunbergi) for colour in the garden.  Barberries were once prohibited for fear they carried rust to wheat.  Berberis thunbergi was developed specifically to be rust resistant and is not a carrier. Relieved gardeners can happily plant barberries once again.

Barberries offer colour all year round.  Early spring, the remants of berries from the previous year may remain on branches still.  Spring, they leaf out in reds, burgundies, yellows or greens.  Near the end of May here in Edmonton, the shrub will flower with the smallest little ball-shaped yellow flower dangled from each branch.  If you don't look close, you will miss them. (see photo above)

Gold Nugget Barberry
During summer they thrive in the heat and full sun.  Barberries prefer a well-drained and somewhat dry soil but you still need to water periodically.  I water once weekly unless it's rained a lot.  Of course, you have to determine your water needs based on location and weather.
Dwarf Gold "aurea nana" barberry

Late summer, early autumn, the barberry produces small red oval shaped berries in place of the flowers.
image from wikipedia

Rose Glow barberries in my front

Some barberries, like Golden Nugget or Sunsation take on red and orange toned leaf colour in the fall.  Emerald Carousel, while green during the growing season, changes to a glowing, iridescent red which is absolutely stunning in the fall! (see upper most photo)

Dwarf Gold "aurea nana" Barberry in the fall next to Summer Wine Ninebark


Care:  Site your barberry in full to part-sun.  Barberries like the Rose-Glow will have best foliage colour when planted in full sun.  After selecting your location in the garden, not in a pot, dig the hole twice the size of the pot, being sure to amend/replace sandy soil or heavy clay with peat moss or a planting mix with peat moss to increase drainage.  Do not use a potting soil with slow release fertilizer as, over time, this will increase the salt in the soil, burning the roots.  (Only use a potting soil with slow-release fertilizer for outdoor seasonal container gardening)

Plant at the same height in the garden as it was in the pot.  Upon filling the hole with soil and tamping it down, gently but firmly to remove air pockets, set the hose nearby and water at a slow trickle until soil is thoroughly moistened to the roots.  Barberries prefer a well-drained site where water will not pool around the roots.  For the first year, you may need to water twice a week until it becomes established.

A general all-purpose fertilizer may be applied early spring.  Barberries are not heavy feeders.  A slight trim in the spring of branches that may have died back in the winter is generally all the pruning that is necessary.  

Older shrubs can be rejuvenated with a pruning to a foot high in late winter.  Be sure to fertilize in the spring to encourage healthy growth.

Berries are edible.

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Linking up with Mosaic Monday at Little Red House.

*all images are mine unless otherwise stated





7 comments:

Shirley said...

Hardiness zone 4 but they do extremely well in my zone 3/3b garden in Edmonton.

Crafty Gardener said...

Barberry shrubs are very pretty. Lovely mosaic today.

Pondside said...

I love my one barberry for its four season colour. It is worth every inch of earth it takes up!

Mary said...

I've always been a fan of the lime-green variety! It packs such a punch of cheery color :-)

Byddi - We didn't come here for the grass... said...

An interesting shrub and a very informative post. Thanks for sharing.

Arija said...

Berberis is a truly beautiful plant any time of year, even leafless in winter when the big thorns show themselves.
They are great as hedges and provide safe nesting spots for little birds.

Mary said...

They are lovely, and I think they might look really nice against my red house.... :)

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