mockingbird appears to be celebrating the season
and his next tasty treat in this possumhaw holly
are definitely going to have a Holly Jolly Christmas in
our garden this year, and you can too for years to come.
For us this is one of the great perks of being an old
USDA Plant Introduction Station followed by more
research conducted by the University of Georgia. It
seems we have hollies wherever you look. Iím talking
the kinds of hollies that are bringing out visitors of
all sorts, from those that photograph the bright red
berries to those that devour them.
is the case for two outstanding natives, the possumhaw
(Ilex decidua) and the winterberry (Ilex verticillata).
The 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. Thatís heirloom status in my book.
of these natives always catch your eye during the winter
months which gives you a clue to their strongest
attribute and a glimpse into why shoppers unfortunately
pass them by. Both lose their leaves letting the berries
glow like tiny ornaments for everyone to see. Then ó
could it get better? ó you get to watch the birds
feast on the bounty.
you will pause and think, deciduous is not bad. You love
the shimmering white blossoms of the spiraea and the
cheerful yellow blooms of the forsythia. Why not gladly
accept one or both of these hollies that adorn
themselves with thousands of bright orange and red
berries perfect for the Christmas season?
and Winterberries are easy to grow, and good nurseries
normally have them. Choose female plants to assure berry
production. Superior possumhaw cultivars are Warrenís
Red, Pocahontas and Sentry. The berries on these are
suggested to be either more prolific or larger than the
native in the woods variety.
same holds true for named selections of the winterberry.
In our garden we grow the Winter Red variety which is
absolutely stunning with thousands of berries but also
keep your eyes open for Afterglow and Bright Horizon.
of the varieties 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 a great place for the
possumhaw or winterberry holly to brighten. It is always
a good idea to include a male variety in close proximity
to insure maximum berry production.
well-known horticulturist said you could garden for 12
lifetimes and never see an insect or disease bothering
the plant. In some years we may have our berries
stripped by a waxwing, bobwhite quail or, in our case,
mockingbirds have staked their claim. I think you will
agree these are the type of invaders we are happy to
see. Oh, yes, and as the name suggests, possums do find
the berries a treat as well.
native hollies do not like to dry out. They are at home
in moist areas. If you normally have an abundance of
berries, they can be lost if plants dry out. Although
these are native it is a good idea to give them a little
fertilizer in April and August.
winter and spring when you are at your garden center
choosing new trees or shrubs, the possumhaw and
winterberry hollies are two of the finest choices. I
hope you will give them a try