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This may be the most useful plant in the garden

Berberis thunbergii ‘Concorde' – a.k.a. barberry.

WHY YOU SHOULD PLANT IT

Berberis thunbergii 'Concorde' - a.k.a. barberry - just may be the most useful plant in your garden. In addition to repelling animal intruders, it has tremendous all-season appeal. In the spring, its gorgeous, deep magenta foliage is complemented by yellow flowers and then bright red berries. In the fall, it turns a magnificent scarlet before dropping its leaves to expose a thorny black structure for winter. Very dramatic.

WHERE TO PLANT IT

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Barberry has a compact 45-by-60-centimetre form and should be planted in full sun, although I've got one in part shade and it's doing well. It can adapt to fairly dry conditions but shouldn't sit around with wet feet for too long in spring. Even so, mine has put up with those conditions without complaining for some time now. Prune it to keep its shape without worrying it'll get damaged.

How often should you water? Can you bring a dead plant back to life?

WHAT IT OFFERS

I'm crazy about all barberries but this one is the best: It makes a fine small hedge, it shines in containers and its thorniness effectively discourages dogs and cats from traipsing through your plants if planted as an edger. It also offers exquisite sensuality to borders. Plant it with hellebores, black grasses and black snake root (Actaea 'Chocoholic') for even more drama.

SOURCE AND COST

I sourced one recently at Fiesta Gardens in Toronto (200 Christie St., 416-537-1235) for $39.99.

Visit www.marjorieharris.com for more plant and gardening information.

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