The barberry is a vividly coloured shrub that has become popular with gardeners during the last few years because restrictions have been lifted on its import and sale.
Wheat varieties have been developed that are resistant to rust and barberry is one of the hosts of this pathogen.
Barberry is a low maintenance shrub that adds dramatic foliage to landscape. Their small oval leaves are vividly coloured from the moment the shrubs leaf out in the spring until their leaves fall late in the autumn.
It is slow growing so requires little pruning, is drought tolerant and small enough to fit into any landscape. The foliage will be most vivid in a full sun exposure, but the shrub will tolerate some shade.
It’s not particular about soil type and not a heavy feeder so it demands little attention.
Most gardeners allow the slightly arching branches to take their natural form to create a vase-shaped shrub, but it can be clipped into more formal shapes or used to create short prickly hedges.
Sharp thorns are present along the entire length of its stems, so a hedge of barberry will deter both human and animal intruders from invading the garden.
Its leaves can vary from red-purple or dark crimson to bright orange-red, although there are varieties with golden foliage that provide even more possibilities for the shrub border.
For example, a dark red-purple variety like Ruby Carousel will produce great contrast when planted beside a golden variety like Sunsation.
Growing less than a metre in height, barberry bushes are not large shrubs. They are thickly branched and their longest branches tend to arch downward toward the soil.
They produce insignificant yellow flowers and if they form berries, they are dark and unspectacular.
This shrub makes a great accent in either a mixed border or a shrub border. It is an excellent choice for a xeriscape landscape that has rock or stone on landscape fabric and just a few specimen plants as focal points.
In an exposed prairie location, barberry may suffer some winterkill, so barberry shrubs should be planted in locations protected from harsh winter winds. However, most winters they are protected by ample snow.
Albert Parsons has a diploma in horticulture from Guelph University. He operates a garden design/landscape consultation business from his home in Minnedosa, Man. Contact: [email protected]