Monty revisits Gardening at Longmeadow, one of his classic books in an occasional series. 

Winter is just around the corner and soon entire days in the garden may be lost in a gray fog. Berry rescue comes in such times. A berry, which bears seeds, is the fruit that follows a flower produced earlier in a year. 

Technically, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and raspberries aren’t true berries. Grapes, tomatoes, aubergines, and tomatoes are. We all know what a berry is in the garden, so we are pretty familiar with it.

You need to have lots of flowers, and let them fade and become fruit. This means you must be able to tolerate some untidiness in roses with minimal dead-heading. 

UK-based gardening expert Monty Don shares advice for getting the best show of berries this season. Pictured: A glorious display of berries, including red pyracantha

Monty Don, a UK-based gardening specialist, shares his tips on how to get the best display of berries this year. Pictured: A glorious display of berries, including red pyracantha

Summer sun is required for fruit to ripen so shrubs that bloom in May or June are more likely to produce berries than those that flower later.

Of course, some roses have more spectacular fruit – known as hips – than others. The best roses are those that flower early. 

Rosa moyesii is a brilliant orange, bottle-shaped variety that produces beautiful single crimson flowers. These flowers are found in my Grass Borders at the back. It has a curiously distributed distribution that is deeply satisfying and yet still very satisfying. 

I have other roses that produce spectacular hips, like the great tomato jobs on the rugosas, oval aniseed balls on the dog roses, black ones on the pimpinellifolia, and small dangles of orange on R. cantabrigiensis and R. willmottiae.

Hips and haws, Crataegus monogyna, are a strong connection for me. The connection is also botanical because hawthorn belongs to the rose family. 

How to care for cyclamen 

Cyclamen flower modestly in my Spring Garden from early August. Their pinks and whites are out of sync with the fall blaze of autumn.

  • They grow from corms that should be planted now, just below the surface in small groups, in light soil, in the shade of deciduous trees or shrubs – but they’ll grow in the awkward dry shade of evergreens.
  • Cyclamen hederifolium has foliage marked with silvery veins that’s lovely in its own right, appearing only after the flowers have done their stuff.
  • They’ll spread by self-sown seedlings that can be collected and replanted. They will tolerate summer drought and do not mind winter shade, so can be coupled with ferns such as hart’s tongue.
  • They require winter moisture to grow healthy leaves. This makes them an excellent partner in snowdrops.

Hawthorn is often used in the countryside for dividing fields. This is where the May blossoms are most spectacular. However, it also makes a great garden hedge and birds love to plant it. Hawthorn not only gives you flowers and fruits, but also produces the most fresh green spring leaves.

Pyracantha is closely related with the hawthorn. No member of the rose family produces more berries than Pyracantha. The flowers are sweetened with honey and bees love them. 

The more heat and sun that the plant gets, the better the berries will be – which is why those trained against a brick wall produce a better display, thanks to the reflected warmth. They will be eaten by birds once they have stripped the hawthorns. 

I like my pyracantha to be orange-berried, and love ‘Orange Glow’ and ‘Golden Charmer’, but P. rogersiana ‘Flava’ has delightful yellow fruit.

The cotoneaster is another rosy cousin and one that I feel more kinship with. It comes in many varieties, including the tiny-leaved C.microphyllus, C. salicifolius, and C. serotinus with larger leaves. All can grow in any environment that has good drainage, even in dry shade. You won’t go wrong if you place a cotoneaster against a shady fence.

Callicarpa berries look bizarre: they are metallic-looking, purple and grow in clusters along their stems. 

The shrub is not up to much really – although it has a pleasantly orange leaf colour in autumn – so the berries are the reason for growing it. It needs full sun to grow well and should be planted in a pot.

Your kitchen garden: celery

Monty revealed that he sows his celery seed in a seed tray and then transplants the seedlings into plugs (file image)

Monty explained that he sows celery seed in a tray and then transplants the seeds into plugs. (file image).

Celery was always served in a jar with blanched stalks. However, when cooked, celery can enrich almost any soup or stew. The heads can also be braised whole. 

Celery can be stringy. However, these strings are the pathways that transport nutrients to and from the leaf. So, stringless varieties will likely be smaller and less sturdy.

I sow the celery seed in a tray as thinly possible, then transplant the plugs. I then put them in a coldframe for about 10-15cm, harden them off, and then plant them in a grid. 

I do not water, feed or water them.

I tend to grow self-blanching – as opposed to trench – varieties. My success is due in large part to the box hedging I use around my vegetable beds. This provides shelter from pests like carrot fly as well as light and cold. It would be simple for a gardener or a horticulturist to create a temporary barrier or fence out of fleece that would accomplish the same task.

Extracted from Gardening At Longmeadow by Monty Don, BBC Books, £26. © Monty Don 2012