This is the time of year for hips, haws and berries of all kinds to spangle our gardens with colour. The sealing-wax red hips of the species Rosa moyesii pictured here, drip from rose fountains in the orchard whilst the scarlet hips of the tough Japanese rose, R. rugosa are as fat and round as tomatoes and the rambling rose Francis E. Lester nets the hedge in a myriad bright hips. On the far side of the garden the holly hedge is bright with berries, would that they might keep until Christmas but I doubt it for the blackbirds have gobbled up the last of the grapes on the pergola and are looking with hungry eyes at the hedge.

There is one shrub that you can own where the berries will outlast most other species and which are so striking that they naturally and rightly become the centre of attention. Callicarpa berries are light purple, I suppose you might call them lavender or lilac; they look far more like beads than berries to my eyes. Nor does the callicarpa sprinkle these charming berries here and there, no they are produced in handsome, unmissable clusters that will stop anyone in their tracks, no wonder that its common name is the 'beautyberry'. The flowers, which appear in July, are charming. They too are lavender in colour resembling the fuzzy flowers of spirea with the same prominent stamens giving a nimbus of light around the flowers. It is a hardy shrub and not at all fussy about soil or its position being happy in sun or part shade. All of which might make you wonder why our gardens aren't stuffed with beautyberry bushes.

Of the many species that are scattered around the world from China to Japan, Australia to North America there is only one that reliably produces its berries without needing several others in the vicinity for cross-pollination. Callicarpa bodinieri var. giraldii 'Profusion' might be a mouthful to say and a bother to remember but it is the one which will produce its clusters of berries without a partner, and the one which has been given an Award of Garden Merit by the R.H.S. This particular species has its home in Central China where it was collected and brought back to the west as long ago as the mid-19th century by the French missionary and avid plant collector (as all missionaries to China seemed to be), Father Emile Bodinier. Unlike its American cousin which is handily named Callicarpa americana its berries are highly astringent and cannot be turned into jams and jellies. I think this is just as well for it gives the birds pause and although they will eat beautyberries as a last resort they must surely make their beaks pucker if, that is, beaks can pucker.

As small and bright as any berry, the apples on the crab apple ‘Red Sentinel’ have always been ignored by the birds. The red fruit hangs like so many Christmas baubles long past the festive season. There is nothing more cheering on a winter’s day when the ground is white with frost than looking out on this little winter wonder.