February 14, 2010


There's no question that winterberry hollies are beautiful in winter.  They're planted for the sparkling red berries that pop against white snow and deep green evergreens.

The rest of the year they are ordinary -- nice enough plants with clean foliage and a loose, sort of woodland shape.  The flowers are okay but not very showy, and fall color is a nice enough yellowish.  They're kind of a mid-border filler plant most of the year.

But winter..... ah, winter!

I planted four winterberries (Ilex verticillata Red Sprite females and a wonderfully named male called Jim Dandy to go with)

However, the photo above is NOT my winterberry.  It's one I pass on the way to the center of town.

My very own winterberry hollies, not more than a mile away from this specimen, are completely denuded of red fruit.  The birds got every last one, and they did their berry-stripping deed long before Christmas.  Before there was any snow to highlight the bright red.  Before I could even enjoy the idea of red berries as the holly's leaves fell away to expose them.  Before I even got a photo of any red berries.
The naked twiggy thing next to the stump is one of my winterberry shrubs.  No berries.  No pop of color against the birch's light bark and an evergreen background. The tiny green thing behind is a Swiss Stone pine (Pinus cembra), and until it grows it isn't helping much in the winter scenery tableau department.

So, my winter garden, carefully planted for maximum effect of red berry, white bark, green pine, and snowy backdrop, with just a hint of melancholy decay with the old stump, is kind of a bust.  Wildlife value, however is the bomb.


  1. I am sure the birds love you for it. And they meant to say thank you...really! ;)

  2. (lol) - I am sure that The Garden Ms S is right, and your birds will show their appreciation by coming back for more next year.

  3. Garden Ms. S and Karen: I do like keeping the birds happy and I'm glad to share... how about if they eat all the berries on 3 of the winterberries and leave one bush to sparkle red for me!

  4. Wildlife value is the bomb! We have wild Winterberries here and I love them. You've reminded me that I need to get out there and free them from vast webs of Greenbriar that are growing over their area. It is a spectacular shrub in fruit.

  5. Sweet bay, clear out the winterberries... you will love them! I like that yours are growing wild.

  6. Well, you have the right idea. Just that nature is cooperating with your plan. :) I think the garden looks great though. I love the look of the birch and of the grasses. Maybe you could find a bright red gazinf=g ball for the stump. That would be a pop of color in the winter landscape.

  7. Beckie, thanks. As the birch and grasses and pine mature, I'll like this garden better, even if there are no berries!

  8. Laurrie, I have been thinking of planting some winter berry this spring, they are vey gorgeous. I had been half hoping that I could cut a couple of branches for urns at Christmas, not if I have hungry birds like yours!

  9. Deborah, plant a winterberry anyway! The one that is just a mile from me has berries all winter, so you might be lucky enough to have red sprays for Christmas.


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