common snowberry, wax berry, white coralberry, corpse berry, snake's berry, waxberry, ghostberry, Symphoricarpos albus, Symphoricarpos rivularis, Symphoricarpos racemosa, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest

Common Snowberry

The simple addition of the word ‘Common’ before a plant name seems to make it less desirable, doesn’t it?

common snowberry, wax berry, white coralberry, corpse berry, snake's berry, waxberry, ghostberry, Symphoricarpos albus, Symphoricarpos rivularis, Symphoricarpos racemosa, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Who would want a common plant in a garden? Don’t we all want flash – bling — the unusual? In truth, the backbone of a great many gardens is made up of ‘Common ‘ plants. It’s the common plants that enhance the flash & bling of unusual ones.

common snowberry, wax berry, white coralberry, corpse berry, snake's berry, waxberry, ghostberry, Symphoricarpos albus, Symphoricarpos rivularis, Symphoricarpos racemosa, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Common Snowberry seems an insignificant deciduous shrub, but it has qualities that raise its value in a garden.

  • ‘Common’ basically means: it can grow pretty much anywhere.
    • Here on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, where our challenge is summer drought & winter wet, Symphoricarpos albus still thrives.
    • Have you got a steep yard where your hedge struggles because it’s dry at the top of the slope & soggy lower down? Snowberry handles that broad spectrum. It also handles sheering if you’re after a tidy, dense form. AND It supplies a nice cohesive look dotted throughout a mixed hedgerow.
    • How about that difficult dry, shady patch where it’s tough for plants to survive? Yup, snowberry handles that, too.
    • It grows well in the feast or famine water supply of bioswales & rain gardens that are so prized for slowing stormwater runoff.
    • Because its vigorous roots spread via suckers, snowberry is a workhorse in erosion control, which is why it’s also recommended for restoration sites.
common snowberry, wax berry, white coralberry, corpse berry, snake's berry, waxberry, ghostberry, Symphoricarpos albus, Symphoricarpos rivularis, Symphoricarpos racemosa, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins
  • Snowberry has unusual fruits.
    • White berries are not the norm — and the snowberry is even more unusual in that it’s NOT even a berry! It’s a ‘drupe.’ Each fruit contains 2 ‘nutlets’ — just like the fruit of a cherry contains a pit. Cool, eh? How many folks at the garden club can you entertain with that trivia?
    • Symphoricarpos albus’ bitter drupes persist late into the winter, providing welcome food for birds when other supplies run low.
    • This small shrub was considered interesting & decorative enough that a couple centuries ago, it was imported by Britain & grown in many fashionable gardens. Side note: It’s become so comfortable there that it spread into their wilderness areas, too! See — it’ll grow pretty much anywhere.
common snowberry, wax berry, white coralberry, corpse berry, snake's berry, waxberry, ghostberry, Symphoricarpos albus, Symphoricarpos rivularis, Symphoricarpos racemosa, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins
  • Snowberry is a native plant that welcomes wildlife to the garden.
    • The diminutive pink flowers in early summer are especially appreciated by native pollinators & other beneficial insects. Both the Anna’s & Rufus hummingbirds compete for access to the blooms.
    • Deer & other ungulates browse on snowberry, but it isn’t tasty enough to be gorged on as their dessert.
    • Even in its naked winter state, a Symphoricarpos albus thicket provides protection, food & shelter for small birds & mammals.
common snowberry, wax berry, white coralberry, corpse berry, snake's berry, waxberry, ghostberry, Symphoricarpos albus, Symphoricarpos rivularis, Symphoricarpos racemosa, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

I used to think snowberry was a pretty dull little shrub, but I’ve since changed my mind. A couple of years ago, I planted one in our little woodland border. Without any further attention, the snowberry survived last summer’s drought & this year, it bore fruit– several puffy white drupes. 🙂

Now the plan is to introduce it into a couple other challenging spots. The wildlife will be happy if it flourishes. If its vigorous roots spread too far, I’m sure the deer will help keep it in check.

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