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Annie in Austin
Welcome! As "Annie in Austin" I blog about gardening in Austin, TX with occasional looks back at our former gardens in Illinois. My husband Philo & I also make videos - some use garden images as background for my original songs, some capture Austin events & sometimes we share videos of birds in our garden. Come talk about gardens, movies, music, genealogy and Austin at the Transplantable Rose and listen to my original songs on YouTube. For an overview read Three Gardens, Twenty Years. Unless noted, these words and photos are my copyrighted work.
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Monday, October 13, 2008

Not Berry Many

Many northern bloggers posted photos of their berries weeks ago - an idea that seems to have started when Lisa of Greenbow made a comment on May Dreams Carol's post on Beautyberries. After the challenge to display our berries was taken up by Mr McGregor's Daughter photos of beautiful berries appeared on garden blogs everywhere.

In my garden the yaupon hollies and Burford hollies are still developing their green berries - they won't turn red for weeks. Birds stripped the beautiful purple berries from my Beautyberry a month ago.
I'm tired of waiting to post! I found only a few berry-like subjects to photograph and for some of them the definition of berry needs to be a fuzzy one.

Above are berries on what is called a Japanese Yew here in Austin. If you live in other places that name usually refers to some cultivar of Taxus japonicus (as in the famous Green Moustache) but my young shrub belongs to Podocarpus - maybe Podocarpus macroplyllus. Another name for this plant is Buddhist Pine.

I've seen related plants at the
Hartman Prehistoric Garden - their plant list calls them Cephalotaxus fortunei - Chinese plum yew and Cephalotaxus harringtonia - Japanese plum yew. On our first visit to the Hartman Dinosaur Garden I fell in love with the place and I've tried to recreate the effect with similar plants in my garden.

Even if they weren't growing at the Hartman I'd have wanted a 'Little Gem' magnolia. It's made flowers in the 3 years since we planted it, but didn't make seed cones until this summer - they sort of look like berries glued together so I'm counting it.

I found a few berries left on the liriope edging in the Secret Garden. The birds aren't giving them a chance to turn dark this year.

Can you see the St Augustine grass in the background at right? That might give you an idea of how small the leaves on this plant really are. It's called Dwarf Greek Myrtle, Myrtus communis 'Nana'. I first saw this plant growing in the garden of one of the Divas of the Dirt. Buffy's pair of myrtles were already medium size shrubs when I saw them around 2001 and the tiny neat leaves were attractive. After we moved to this house I added three 10-inch tall plants of these compact Greek myrtles in the back garden, thinking they might have impact at some future date.

When we met at Buffy's house for a recent Diva project I was stunned to see that her compact myrtles had reached 8-feet tall. They're planted to shield the view of her Secret Garden from the gate and do their job well. Mine are less than 18 inches high, but I'm keeping an eye on them!

Buffy had beautiful berries in her garden - produced by a shrub I've already killed once but will probably buy again. For a look at the luminous blue berries on Buffy's 'Spring Bouquet' viburnum see the October 12th post at the Divas of the Dirt Blog.


  1. Berries are definitely in the eye of the beholder, and it sounds like many of yours end up in the beak of the bird. I still have berries all over my beauty berries, making me wonder why the birds haven't eaten them. They are welcome to them!

    Those myrtle berries almost look like tiny blueberries. Are they poisonous?

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  2. I love the name of this post, too cute. The purple berries are pretty but I especially like the Podacarpus. I wish it was hardy here but alas, it is not. Sounds pretty common there but so lovely.

  3. You made me curious, Carol - sounds like the berries may be edible but when extracted for medicinal use are strong enough to be toxic if used incorrectly. We could rub them on our heads instead of eating them!

    Thanks for not groaning, Tina - I have no resistance to puns!


  4. Hi Annie, thanks for the shout out. I like your berry selection. I would count the magnolia fruit too. I almost posted them but decided I had plenty other berries to post.

    As Carol mentioned my Beauty Berry bushes are still full of berries. This being such a warm fall the northern robins haven't made it down our way yet to eat them. They are the main munchers of BB bush berries.

    I will have to pop over to Divas to see what you ladies have been up to.

  5. Love your myrtle, Annie. And as Carol mentioned the berries look very similar to blueberries. Interesting how so many of these look similar - even that Hawthornia you id'd a while back on my blog has berries resembling the same shape with similar colours.

  6. I have a dwarf myrtle in one of my beds and I hope it's not destined to grow that tall! It's been fairly mannerly since I planted it (don't ask me when, I don't remember) but I too shall keep a wary eye on mine!

  7. As to small crepes getting big, I have pittosporums about 18' tall 'cause I pruned 'em that way. Pruning can do a lot, obviously.

    And yes, those yaupon hollies will be a joy to behold here. Starting in early Dec. I think? My mom came down from Canada for a visit and went along roadsides to collect them for stunning indoor displays.

    And pansies are ready to plant here now! Another couple of weeks for me on those.

    Gotta love this Austin town.

  8. I had no idea there were so many different kinds of Yew. The Magnolia seed cones are beautiful (certainly giant berryish!) I like the colour of the Myrtle berries. We should take bets on how much your 18-inch Myrtle will grow by next year. That would be fun.

    Once the snow leaves, I'll have a look to see if I've any berries.

    Have a wonderful week!

  9. You're welcome, Lisa at Greenbow - I'm glad the birds like the berries, but wish they'd let me take a photo first!

    Thank you, Stuart - that look-alike quality would keep me from sampling any of them. My Indian Hawthorn didn't even make berries this year.

    Buffy didn't shear hers at all, Cindy from Katy - they supposedly take clipping without protest - hope it will work.

    Hi Jannie Funster - these myrtles aren't a kind of crepe myrtle, (which are Lagerstroemia)but are true myrtles. They're evergreen and have very tiny white flowers in spring.

    I've never tried to grow pittosporum but do like the way it looks.
    The possumhaw hollies are even flashier than the regular yaupons! Thanks for commenting!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  10. Annie, Hi. The berries in the first photo look like grapes on appetizer toothpicks! You were able to get a very nice closeup!

    I have a few Cephalotaxus...beautiful yews. They have spread nicely to make a great ground cover in a shady spot....are about a foot tall. I can recommend!


  11. The dwarf myrtle is a nice shrub and can be reproduced quite easily from cuttings but it isn't that dwarf- well, having just pulled out a Southern wax myrtle maybe I should take that back. However, I did have to pull out 4 dwarf myrtles that I had planted in my herb garden around the sundial. I had no idea they would be so happy there and I was tired of clipping them like a hedge. I do make sure I prune back the other ones I have just to keep them nice and full.

  12. Annie,
    What a Berry nice post.:-)Sorry, I couldn't resist. I've never heard of a Dwarf Greek Myrtle. I always enjoy hearing about a new plant.

  13. When I first saw that photo I wondered to myself if it was a Plum Yew, and then you used that name! I love them, but as I'm sure you know they are only marginally hardy here. The weird thing is that the Morton Arboretum has one, and it's a good size too, so I guess it might survive here in the right location.
    I didn't know Magnolias made seedcones. Mine makes knobbly pods with bright orange seeds inside. The Myrtle is such a cute plant & the berries look good enough to eat.
    I'm glad you were finally able to post some photos of berries. I really enjoyed it. Thanks for the shout out!

  14. Hi Annie, your post was a treat, but when you got to the myrtle I was excited. I had a myrtle topiary in The Woodlands that was brought here and put in the greenhouse each winter. I got tired of doing that and planted it in the ground in a very protected spot a few years ago. It has hung on, the drought has been bad for it, but it puts on new growth each year, no flowers yet but maybe berries some day. I didn't even know it would get berries, hooray!

  15. I've been considering getting a Japanese yew for my very shady front yard. How tall will it get? Is yours in shade?

  16. One source I trust claims that myrtle (essential oil) has been researched for its usefulness in normalizing hormonal imbalances of the thyroid and ovaries. Sounds like we might be on to something here for an alternative to ERT. On a different note, I wonder why the name (Myrtle) has fallen by the wayside?

  17. Hello Gail - they do look like grapes! Ground cover-sized Cephalotaxus sound very interesting.

    The small plants seemed quite inexpensive to me, Lancashire Jenny - if cuttings root easily that might explain the low price. Dwarf does seem to be a rather fluid term, doesn't it.

    Thanks Jamie and Randy. I've learned about a lot of plants since joining the Divas of the Dirt in 2001 - they're all willing to experiment with new plants and when we work in each other's gardens we get to see what happens.

    I don't know if the Plum Yew name applies to my Podocarpus, too, Mr McGregor's Daughter, but they look very close to the Cephalotaxus at the Hartman. Until I saw the list I thought those were Podocarpus.
    Morton Arboretum sure seems to have some helpful microclimates!

    I sure hope your myrtle will perk up and be happy Frances, but I can't guarantee any berries. I have three plants and only one made berries - maybe they're dioecious.

    Vertie,my Podocarpus/Japanese yew is around 4-feet tall after being in the ground for about 3 years. It's planted on the outer edge of the canopy of a big pecan where it gets more sun in winter but has dappled sun in the heat of summer. I've seen them in other gardens as tall as 6 or 7 feet.

    Hi Walk2Write - thanks for the herbal information.
    Names are cyclical so maybe Myrtle will be back some day? My name sources say that name was coined in the 1800's, so it isn't a classic name, but was a trendy choice at first.

    I have a theory that names didn't sound the same to people once they were used for characters in movies. So many of the names with an "er" in the middle ended up attached to the neighbor, the secretary or the best friend instead of the heroine: Myrtle, Bertha, Fern, Pearl, Lurlene, Verna, Gert. Only one I've seen lately is Vertie ;-]

    Thanks for the thought-provoking comments!


  18. I should like to find some viburnum berries I can taste. I'm not good a identifying viburnum, tho'. Doesn't stop me from occasionally tasting unidentified berries tho'. So far, I'm not dead. I have a few raspberries ripening from canes planted this year. Next year, more.

  19. Annie, when I posted about berries in my garden, I didn't think I had very many either--I had to resort to pinecones to add another berry, so I think your magnolia seedhead definitely qualifies! And I didn't realize until I looked closely that yews produce berries; since then, I've noticed other plants that have berries as well. Sometimes we just have to really look:)

    I like that "compact" Greek myrtle--hope you have room in your garden for it:)

  20. You've made me want to go out and look for berries in the garden, Annie! But the frost is on the pumpkin this morning, so I'll wait until the sun warms us up a little.
    Your Greek Myrtle is lovely with its pretty blue berries. It certainly doesn't look like a 'dwarf' in Buffy's garden!
    I like those seed cones on the 'Little Gem' magnolia.
    It's fun to see these interesting little details.
    You Divas sure have fun gardening and eating together, don't you? It's a perfect combination :)


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