Q. I grew up back east where holly bushes were everywhere, so getting clippings to decorate with for the holidays wasn’t difficult at all. I tried to grow a couple of holly shrubs here, but wasn’t successful at all. I’ve seen a couple of pyracantha shrubs in my neighborhood, but they have really bright orange colored berries. Are there any shrubs you could recommend that have the red berries I’m looking for? – M.H., Peralta
A. Barberries, cotoneaster, and “Yes, Virginia,” there are pyracantha that offer a more red berry than the ones you’ve noticed.
When you go shopping for any of these red-berried shrubs, be sure that you are looking at ones that come from a reliable grower (like Monrovia) and the shrub you pick is tagged appropriately.
If you find a “loner” that isn’t wearing a tag and doesn’t have any berries on it, well, buyer beware.
The pyracantha variety called “Red Elf” is listed as bearing bright red berries. The variety “Mohave” has berries that are described as orange-red.
In the cotoneaster world, look for the variety “cranberry” and you’ll have red berries galore.
In the barberry family look for Japanese barberry, Berberis thunbergii. They also can offer the red berries you’re looking for.
From everything I’ve read about any of these shrubs, they do not like soggy feet. Don’t plant them next to a lawn or garden that gets watered frequently. Granted, they will need maintenance watering, just not kept truly wet.
I will caution also that when you bring in any cutting that is wearing berries, you keep them away from nosy pets and wee children. Some are poisonous or could give a bad stomach at least.
I hope this helps you find a shrub you can grow here that wear the red berries you’re looking for.
Q. Recently I helped a dear friend go through their mom’s garage. We discovered a couple of coffee cans filled with packets of flower seeds. Since I garden, they offered me the cans. Some of the seed packets are dated and several years old, so I wonder if they’ll be viable? Second, what do I do with the seed I don’t use? – N.W., Albuquerque
A. As for the seed being dated, I feel that nothing ventured, nothing gained. Given such a gift, I’d go ahead and plant the seed that can be planted now, and save the rest you want for spring. Even if none of it germinates, it’ll feed the earth and that’s a good thing.
As to having an overabundance of seed … are you crafty? If so, here’s a nifty thing to do.
You need clear glass or plastic ornaments, a package of vermiculite, a funnel and some ribbon.
Removing the crown of the ornament, fill it a scant 1/3 full of the vermiculite. In a bowl, mix together all your extra seed, then using a funnel, spoon about a tablespoon of the seed into the ornament.
Reinsert the crown of the ornament and tie a piece of ribbon so it can be hung as a proper ornament like you’d have on you tree. You can write a list of the seeds contained in the ornament, like on a gift tag, with instructions to wait until next spring to empty and plant the mixture.
Give these cheery gifts to any other gardeners you know.
Your friend will be pleased how you’re spreading the hope Mom had when she got all those seeds and that’s a very good thing to keep more of us out there Diggin’ In.
Tracey Fitzgibbon is a certified nurseryman. Send garden-related questions to Digging In, Albuquerque Journal, 7777 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109, or to email@example.com.