Home garden design > Planting Trees and Shrubs > The Best Garden Trees and Garden Shrubs > Berberis


An important genus of Berberideae composed of evergreen and deciduous shrubs of ornamental character. Some are only a few inches high, while others rise to a height of 12 feet or more and are bushy in comparison. They are not fastidious regarding soil, as they thrive in almost anything in which plants can be expected to grow; loamy soil is, however, most suitable. The genus is very widely distributed through Europe, Asia, and America. Seeds and cuttings form ready means of increase. Many species are in cultivation, a selection of the best being given.

B. Aquifolium, from western North America in 1823, is a spreading evergreen bush from 2 to 6 feet high, bearing dark green, pinnate leaves with spiny toothed margins. The yellow flowers are in upright panicles, and are succeeded by dark purple berries. The blossonirng period is March and April. During winter many of the leaves change to bronze and scarlet. It is a very useful shrub for planting in shady places or for covering banks. There are several well marked varieties, such as latifolia, macrophylla, Murrayana, rotundifolia, and others.

B. buxi folia. - The Box-leaved Barberry from Chili is a useful evergreen growing 7 or 8 feet high and making a
shapely bush. The leaves are small and Box-like, the flowers yellow and fragrant, and borne from the leaf axils in April
and May. There is a dwarf form called nana.

B. Canadensis is a deciduous shrub 3 to 5 feet high, with spiny shoots, spathulate leaves, and yellow flowers. It is known as the Canadian Barberry, and was introduced from Canada about 1759.

B. concinna is an interesting deciduous species from the Himalayas; it grows about 3 feet high and has small, rounded, spiny leaves, which - turn scarlet in autumn, and yellow flowers.

B. Darwinii. - This is one of the most ornamental species and one of the best spring-flowering shrubs. It is a native of Chili, and bears small, spiny edged evergreen leaves and racemes of orange coloured flowers. It usually grows to a height of from 6 to 10 feet, but is sometimes met with taller, one plant in a shrubbery attained to a height of 18 feet. It was introduced about 1849, and is an excellent subject for groups or beds. It flowers in April and May. There is a dwarf variety known as nana.

B. empetrifolia is a small-leaved, rather weak growing evergreen with yellow blossoms, from Chili.

B. Japonica, from China and Japan, is a very ornamental evergreen growing to a height of 4 or 5 feet, and bearing upright panicles of yellow flowers in February and March. The leaves are long and leathery, and are composed of about nine leaflets. It should be placed in a permanent position when young, as it is very impatient of root disturbance.

B. Nepalensis, is very similar to the preceding, but has longer leaves.

B. Sieboldii is a deciduous species from China and Japan; the leaves colour well in autumn.

B. stenophylla. - Where one Berberis only is required, this hybrid between B. Darwinii and B. empetrifolia should be planted. It forms a large bush 8 to 10 feet high and 12 feet through. The fragrant golden flowers are produced in April.

B. Wallichiana is a dwarf, compact evergreen 3 feet high, from the Himalayas and China.