Winter Berries

Euonymus japonicus Chollipo

Summer berries

The shortest day of the year has come and gone—and with it, the predictions of Mayan doom. The world still turns, the holidays still beckon. And in my garden, the euonymus bushes continue in their evergreen splendor, just as the shopkeeper at the garden center had promised they would.

Mine are not the only euonymus (pron. you-ON-i-mus) plants in town. Many people have these stately shrubs, but theirs don’t have berries. Mine do. It was partly the beauty of these berries that drew me to the plants when I first saw them for sale this summer. While my husband immediately keyed in on the variegated leaves, I loved the tiny white orbs scattered amongst the green, ivory-edged foliage.

Euonymus berries in winter

Winter berries

But in mid-November, I noticed something curious. The berry husks were taking on a purplish tinge. Soon the orange berries themselves were poking out from inside, some displaying sharply pointed tips. Now, as Christmas approaches, the purple has grown darker, more insistent, and ever more lovely. Who needs to decorate the fir trees outside when these berries are as striking as any ornaments?

But why do my plants alone have berries?

Euonymus japonicus Chollipo berriesFor the answer, I turned to Gilbert Resendez at Monrovia, the plant company. In short, it seems I am an untidy gardener. According to Resendez, this bush (full name, Euonymus japonicus “Chollipo”) is usually trimmed very tight for use as a hedge or border. In the process, the flowers are pruned off each spring before the berries have had a chance to form. He politely says my bushes are growing “in a natural untrimmed form.” And I’m so glad they are.

Euonymus japonicus Chollipo berriesI was already delighted with the color-shifting berries. Now I apparently have flowers to look forward to next spring. According to Resendez, they will be “perfect flowers” with both male (stamen) and female (pistil) reproductive parts on each self-pollinating blossom.

And the seasons of life will turn on.
Euonymus japonicus Chollipo berries

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2 Responses to Winter Berries

  1. Steve S says:

    An absolutely lovely blog, Anne. Three cheers for creating a splendid antidote to all that conspires to freeze our senses and numbs us to everyday beauty and nature. My one objection is the notion that our life seasons “march.” Way too martial for my sensibilities. And way too directed toward a conscious destination or purpose. My life seasons are more likely to wander about, ghostlike, looking for a suitable place to land, like a seed carried by winds of chance and change. If they are marching, then I’m blissfully unaware of their mindless movement toward something that is way beyond my understanding. I don’t even know if I should post this comment, let alone march on.
    All of which is to say thank you for this beautiful respite from harsh reality. I look forward to digging deeper into the soil of your soul. Thanks so much.

  2. John A says:

    My mature Euonymus sprouts many hard green berries during the month of late October into November but they never seem to “ripen” in color and have the husks open.
    Anything I can do to encourage a more complete cycle?

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