Winter Interest for your Garden

Don’t think that just because winter is coming, your garden will lose all interest! Over the years it has slowly dawned on me there are some very colorful and sometimes very fragrant plants that positively shine during the winter months.

Look at the Winterberry:

If I had to pick a favorite plant for December in North Carolina, it would be a winterberry holly. Ilex verticillata – the American winterberry – provides a midwinter splash of bright color from densely packed berries, whose visibility is heightened by the loss of foliage. The bright red berries dispels some of the drear that we feel during the winter after the summer flowers and greenery have gone away. Not only prized for its color, the red berries provide a food source for wildlife, especially songbirds such as Bluebirds, Robins, Catbirds, Mockingbirds, and Cedar Waxwings. Of course, being food for birds does not mean the berries are edible (by us) - the Winterberry (along with many other garden plants) is mildly poisonous to pets and people.

Although Winterberry is native in the eastern U. S. and common in the wild, there is good reason to buy it from a nursery - it is dioecious and requires a male plant compatible with the bloom time of the selected female plants to ensure berry production. This also helps you get the size plant best for your garden space as there are a variety of hybrids with differing sizes. Although wet acidic soils are optimal, the winterberry will grow well in the average garden. It is easy to grow, with very few diseases or pests.