Barberries: Nature’s Thorny Gems

Authored by Ryan Falk - Nursery Sales Manager
Nov 5th, 2019
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If you have ever worked with barberry shrubs you have probably learned within seconds how they got their name. The stems are covered in many painfully sharp thorns that make Caraganas seem cuddly. Leather work gloves seem to be the only thing tough enough to effectively protect your hands.

Considering the pain these plants can inflict, they need to have spectacular features to make them worth the trouble. One of the most eye-catching of this species is the Concorde Barberry.

The Concorde Barberry has excellent deep purple foliage all through the summer; the colour is best when it’s grown in full sun. It is a rather small shrub, growing only 2 feet high at maturity. Like many small shrubs, it needs good snow cover to survive the winter. Being rated a zone 4 plant, there is a risk of tip freezing and perhaps damage to the roots if the winter snow cover is not sufficient.

The Emerald Carousel Barberry is one of the more cold-tolerant options. Hardy to zone 3, it is a more reliable option for our unreasonably cold winters. True to its name, it has rich green foliage through the summer that will contrast nicely with its bright red ornamental berries in late summer. However, the real selling feature of the Emerald Carousel is the fall colour display. Starting with a light shade of orange and progressing to bright red, it is a vibrant shrub that will easily steal the show for up to three weeks. It is a small to medium size shrub growing as large as three to four feet tall and wide. If left to its own growth style it will be spreading and open, or it can be pruned and kept compact.

While most barberries need to be kept close to the south side of the house where they have full sun exposure and heavy shelter from north winds. The Emerald Carousel breaks the mold and can be planted throughout the yard as long as it still has full sun and good drainage.

Another strength of all barberries across the board is a high tolerance for clay soils, a valuable trait when you are planting in Manitoba gumbo. They are also low on the menu for deer and rabbits due to being a painful mouthful.

It goes without question that the Barberry shrub is a true gem!

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