The charm of many landscape plantings during fall and early winter months is due almost entirely to the interesting effects produced by the fruit of various trees, shrubs, and vines. Too little attention is given to the landscape value of plants because of their fruiting characteristics. It is the general impression that plants for landscape value have completed their greatest purpose when they have produced their foliage and flowers. As a matter of fact, instances may be common within the recollection of everyone where some interesting touch of colour in the landscape has been noticed and on further study has been found due entirely to the colour effect coming from a mass of hanging fruit.
To those people who occupy their permanent homes only during the fall and winter months, and whose greatest enjoyment from their landscape plantings should be produced by the fruiting effects, this is an important problem. It is admitted that many of our plants, such as the horse-chestnut, tree of heaven, honey locust, and hackberry, produce fruit which because of its littering habit is objectionable. These plants, however, are very few. The list of plants which produce fruit valuable because of certain characteristics such as interesting form and size, colour effects, and the ability to retain the fruit during the later winter months, includes many of our trees, shrubs, and vines that are valuable for their flowering effects also. This question is such an important one that each of the groups should be taken up in an individual discussion. The value of plants for their fruits which attract our many bird friends presents such an interesting study that this has been taken up as a distinct part of this chapter.
Among plants useful on the more refined lawn areas, where the detailed development of landscape plants is one of the most interesting features, there are a number of plants, such as the burning bush, cucumber tree, and the oriental plane, representative of the group producing fruit singularly interesting and conspicuous because of its form. There are other trees such as the Kentucky coffee tree, the western catalpa, and the tulip tree, the fruit of which is interesting on account of its size.
One of the most interesting characteristics of fruit is its colour. From the clear white fruit of the grey dogwood to the brilliant red fruit of the thorn there is a wonderful variation in colour effect produced by fruits. The beauty fruit, with its brilliant porcelain-blue berries, adds an interesting touch of colour to landscape plantings nearly as effective as that of flowers, if not more so. In many of these shrubs, such as some varieties of the thorn, the honeysuckle, and the elder, the beautiful colours of the fruit against the background of green foliage are extremely effective. The great majority of our shrubs retain their fruit for a greater or less period after the leaves have fallen. With the first signs of freezing and real winter weather these fruits rapidly wither and decay and those which are not removed by the birds soon drop from the plants. The fruit of the elderberries, roses, blue berries, and honeysuckles is dropped well before the middle of December, and even as early as the first of December. In the average winter the fruit of the dogwoods, the spindle tree, the snowberry, and the burning bush retain their interesting colour until the early part of January. Of this group of plants there are many which retain their fruit well into the winter months. The Japanese barberry and the winterberry or deciduous holly hold their fruit much longer than the other plants, while the brilliantly coloured fruit of the bittersweet, the thorn, and the high-bush cranberry remains until the really severe winter weather begins. From a landscape point of view there is nothing much more effective in a pictorial composition than the brilliantly coloured fruit and brilliantly coloured twigs of many of our trees and shrubs presented against a background of snow.