holly berries like this possumhaw and the
winterberry are loved by birds and available in
both red and gold selections
time of the year everyone is thinking of decking the
halls with hollies and their colorful red berries, but
you just may want to consider adding a touch of gold.
Can you even imagine hollies with bright golden berries?
These would show out in the landscape like small trees
or shrubs adorned with a thousand little golden lights
and the same for the mantle too! My preference, however,
would be to see birds celebrating with a Christmas
at the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens, we are like
the holly headquarters for the Low Country. We’ve got
the imports, the hybrids, and fantastic natives that
most have never seen. Two of my favorites are
outstanding deciduous natives, the possumhaw (Ilex
decidua) and the winterberry (Ilex verticillata).
possumhaw is native to 19 states from Texas to Illinois,
eastward to Maryland and everything south. The possumhaw
has been known to feed nine species of birds including
the beloved bobwhite quail. The winterberry, on the
other hand, is native over a much larger area, including
33 states and much of Canada. It feeds at least 20
species of birds and has been in cultivation since 1736.
That’s heirloom status in my book.
let the fact that they are deciduous discourage you from
trying them in the landscape; when the leaves diminish
or fall the berries are even more dazzling. As you are
probably guessing, both the winterberry and the
possumhaw have a superior selection in both red and
golden berry form.
Gold is the selection of possumhaw holly we are growing,
and your first thought is that it gets its name from a
bird you might see devouring the fruit. The truth is, it
is named for Bill Finch who discovered it in Mobile,
Ala. This terrific plant is cold hardy from zones 5-9
and can form a small tree 12-to-15 feet in height with a
spread to 10-feet. We are also growing Warren’s Red a
superior selection that loads up with uncountable red
winterberry hollies are more shrub-like reaching 5-to-8
feet in height. The winterberry is more cold-hardy with
zones from 3-9. We are growing Winter Red and Winter
Gold both of which offer staggering beauty with their
and winterberries are easy to grow, and good nurseries
usually have them. Regardless of the variety you choose,
plant in sun to partial sun and in the same places, you
might plant a crape myrtle. Use them to frame entryways
for special accents or along driveways and around the
patio. Anywhere the landscape looks drab in the winter
is an excellent place for the possumhaw or winterberry
holly to brighten. It is always a good idea to include a
male variety nearby to ensure maximum berry production.
well-known horticulturist said you could garden for 12
lifetimes and never see an insect or disease bothering
the plant. In most years however our berries are
stripped by cedar waxwings, American robins, or
mockingbirds which always seem to stake a claim. These
pests will most likely cause a family celebration and
bring out the cameras.
winter and spring when you are at your garden center
choosing new trees or shrubs, look for hollies loaded
with fruit and bearing no leaves you just may strike
gold with a great selection of one of our native