The winter garden has a different view than any other season. It is a resting garden, biding its time to launch into growth when the weather suits it. Among the populations, some of the bushes and trees hold onto reminders of warmer days. The crabapple is adorned with tiny, pendulous, dull red orbs, shriveled by time. They hang as would singular decorations on a bare tree. Bayberry clings to its matte gray fruit along its stem. The luminescent purple fruit of the beautyberry rarely continues in appearance beyond Christmas. It is a favorite of squirrels that will gnaw off a stem filled with berries to consume at their leisure. And hollies hide their festive red fruits amidst their bright, pointy leaves.
But my favorite winter berry is the winterberry, a type of viburnum. During the summer it sets out a thick grouping of serrated, deep green leaves that give way to dense groupings of bright red berries. Unlike the crabapple, its berries stays vibrant and lush the entire season. And after all the leaves have dropped, they sit as would shining red jewels clustered around a scepter-like stem. They remain as long as the birds let them.
Unlike other berries that are removed a few at a time, the winterberry tends to lose its fruits very quickly. One moment the berries are bright and inviting, in another they are gone. I’ve never seen the bush denuded, only the aftermath. But today as the snow was swirling a singular out-of-place robin rested on the bush. It was joined by another and then another. Soon over two dozen robins were sitting, feasting on berries as would lions on a carcass. Flying back and forth seeming as if they could not believe their good fortune, they brought more of their peers with every landing until the winterberry bush was decorated as would a Christmas tree filled with red berries and flittering red breasted birds desperate for nourishment.
As quickly as the robins came to eat, they left. In a few minutes after their arrival all but a few berries remained on the stems of the winterberry. Some laid to waste underneath, waiting for the ground feeders to enjoy. Their consumption would have to wait as the snow covered these expended fruits up as quickly as they fell. The winterberry has now lost its color taking its place among all the other bushes awaiting for a sign to spring to life and renew growth. And the robins are resting on the forsythia, tummies filled with berries, thinking about their next raid.