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Anne K Moore
Photograph Anne K Moore

As leaves color up and tumble to the ground my thoughts turn to raking. Then my thinking turns to dreaming of less work. Maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to have a landscape comprised of all evergreens. Let’s face it, that’s a silly dream. I wouldn’t want to be without my leafy trees and shrubs. Late fall and winter, though, is a good time to assess the perimeters of the yard and garden. After all, a totally bare look in the winter can seem bleak by anyone’s standards. There should be a spot to plug in a couple of hollies for winter interest.

Ilex ‘Vomitoria’ is a versatile evergreen holly with a horrible botanical name. From the name, we do learn you should not eat any part of the plant, which is pretty much true of all hollies. ‘Vomitoria’ is a Southeastern native whose common name is yaupon holly. It is a very versatile shrub in the landscape. Its berries are an attractive translucent red but are not showy from a distance. In hot areas, the dwarf yaupon does much better than boxwood as a clipped hedge, and gives the same formal effect. USDA Zones 8-10.

Ilex ‘China Girl’ is covered with glossy green leaves punctuated with red berries all winter. She needs ‘China Boy’ to pollinate her flowers. He is attractively green all winter, too, but will lack the red berries. When choosing a male holly to pollinate the female shrubs keep in mind that they both must bloom at the same time. USDA Zones 5-8.

If you like your holly foliage a little blue, look for ‘Blue Girl’ and her pollinator, ‘Blue Boy’. The foliage might be a bit on the blue-green side, but the berries are still glossy red. ‘Blue Princess’ has larger, glossier leaves than ‘Blue Girl’ and can have a heavier berry load. USDA Zones 5-7.

Who needs leaves when bright berries cover the shrub or tree?

Deciduous hollies have a place in the winter landscape, too, because of their spectacular berry display. Ilex ‘Sparkleberry’ is a female that sets glossy bright red berries that last until early winter or the birds come through, whichever occurs first. Its preferred male pollinator is Ilex ‘Apollo’. USDA Zones 5-9.

Ilex verticillata ‘Berry Heavy’, ‘Red Sprite’, and ‘Winter Red’ have berries that cover their branches and last until spring, unless the flocks find them tasty. ‘Jim Dandy’ pollinates ‘Berry Heavy’. Consult the nursery staff where you purchase the female for recommendations on a male shrub for the female you buy. You should buy them in pairs. In addition, since males who lose their leaves are not attractive in the winter, you can plant the male somewhere in the background. Put the female out front where she can show off. USDA Zones 4-8. 

Now is a good time to scope out these berry producers at the nurseries and make note of the names of the hollies you prefer. Purchase and plant them early next spring in part sun and fertile, moist soil.

Posted November 2, 2012.

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