Andrew McIndoe shows how to bring colour to your autumn garden with berries and fruits

BERRIES and fruits contribute vibrant colour to our gardens in autumn and winter.

As leaves and flowers fade, fruits take over in shades, not only of orange, yellow and red but also pink, purple and white.

The branches of many shrubs and trees are transformed by intricate bead craft as berries ripen and shine to decorate them in an opulent display.

Many berries have started life as insignificant white or dull pink spring flowers produced by less than outstanding plain-leaved shrubs.

When autumn comes, the story is a different one. Ugly ducklings evolve into garden gems as fruits ripen and show their true colours.

Callicarpa is one of the most unusual berry-bearing bushes in the garden. With its straight stems, and plain green deciduous leaves, it forms an ordinary bushy shrub reaching around two metres in height.

Tiny pinkish spring flowers are followed by clusters of tiny shining purple berries, carried in stem-hugging clusters from October onwards.

Their arrangement resembles a DNA model and their colour could have been produced from a nail varnish bottle.

Callicarpa bodinieri var. giraldii Profusion is the best, and most widely grown, form.

Bronze young leaves turn green before changing to shades of pink, mauve and yellow in the autumn, before they fall to reveal large clusters of showy fruits.

Although easily grown it prefers a sunny position, and is always best grown in small groups of the same plant to ensure pollination and a good crop of fruit.

Hard pruning in early spring, when the plants are young, stimulates vigorous growth.

Callicarpa grows on any fertile soil and succeeds well on clay. Gaultheria mucronata, formerly known as Pernettya mucronata, on the other hand is ericaceous and requires acid soil. This is perhaps one of the most striking berry-bearing shrubs.

Small, deep green, glossy evergreen leaves clothe the wiry stems of a dwarf shrub growing to only 60cm or so.

The tiny white flowers are followed by large berries; these can be any shade from white, through pink to red-purple according to variety.

Just like some fruit trees, many varieties require a pollinating partner so are best planted in small groups in semi-shade.

However some set a good crop of berries on their own and so make excellent subjects for winter pots and containers. Try planting a pink-berried variety with the blue grass Festuca glauca and a purple-leaved heuchera for a long-lasting colourful display.

Closely related Gaultheria procumbens is also a valuable winter berry-bearing subject. This evergreen ground cover plant has shiny dark green leaves, small white flowers and large round pinkish-red berries. It makes marvellous ground cover in shade on acid soil, and is wonderful creeping over the edges of pots.

The cotoneasters are often underestimated for their ornamental qualities. Because of their adaptability, and tough constitution they are often used as landscape plants; the sort of vegetation you meet in a supermarket car park.

However, it is worth remembering that they are used in this sort of situation because they are survivors and, what is more, a plant loaded in sealing wax red berries in autumn is a wonderful sight.

There is a cotoneaster for every situation, from ground huggers like Cotoneaster dammeri, to large spreading shrubs such as Cotoneaster cornubia.

Cotoneaster franchettii is particularly attractive with its arching stems carrying grey-green leaves and large orange-red berries.

Use it in mixed borders with summer-flowering shrubs and herbaceous perennials where it will provide autumn and winter interest.

Cotoneasters are wildlife- friendly shrubs with plentiful white flowers in spring, attractive to pollinating insects, and juicy red berries in autumn and winter, eventually enjoyed by birds.

Although associated with Christmas, the hollies are actually at their best in late autumn, when their berries are newly ripened and have not been stripped by the birds. The common holly, Ilex aquifolium, is one of our few native evergreens with dark green spiny leaves and bright red berries on female plants.

These are in the minority so if you have a holly that does not bear fruit it is probably a male or a female form in the absence of a pollinator.

There are some self-fertile forms that set fruit on their own, the best being Ilex aquifolium J C van Tol, with less spiny leaves and plentiful scarlet berries. Pyracanthas, firethorns, have berried superbly in recent years. Profuse flowering encouraged by warm, sunny conditions the previous summer, has resulted in magnificent crops of orange, yellow or red berries.

Pyracantha is an adaptable shrub that can be grown free- standing, trimmed as a hedge or trained as a wall plant.

It is wildlife- friendly and grows on any soil. When training it against a wall or shaping it as a free-standing shrub, trim back the new growth in late summer to a few centimetres from the main stems, to reveal the ripening berries and show them off to best advantage.