Q: My flower beds look drab in winter. Can you suggest companion shrubs with attractive fruit? — Anne Kruschke, Birmingham, Mich.
A: I go for shrubs that top off winter fruit with an encore of spring flowers and stay compact enough to fit into a bed. Viburnums are real troupers: Viburnum dilatatum ‘Catskill’ and V. trilobum ‘Alfredo’ bear stunning red fruit, followed by lacy white blossoms, and top out at 5 to 6 feet. A bit taller, but equally beautiful, is the red chokeberry Aronia arbutifolia ‘Brilliantissima,’ with glossy, neon-bright fruit and plentiful white- and pink-tinged spring blooms. Many hip-bearing roses are more than a feast for the eye (and the birds): Used for tea or jelly, the fruits of Rosa x alba ‘Semiplena,’ R. glauca, and many R. rugosa selections are high in vitamin C. Though its flowers are inconspicuous, the winterberry Ilex verticillata ‘Nana’ (syn. ‘Red Sprite’) hangs onto its scarlet berries when the cold, gray season seems to drag on forever.