Autumn is my favorite time of the year. As temperatures get cooler and daylight hours shorten, the array of colors that nature can provide is absolutely spectacular. More often than not, leaf color is the number one sign of the fall season, and for good reason. Though I'd like to bring your attention to another great attribute plants give us in the fall, and that's berries! Berries that mature during the season and suddenly dot the tree like small ornaments, providing a beautiful aesthetic to your landscape. One of these plants is the Audubon Native Winterberry Holly.
Native to the Eastern United States, Winterberry Holly is a medium-sized, multi-stem shrub that puts on a berry display like no other native shrub of its kind. Bright green leaves turn yellow in fall but quickly fall to expose clusters of bright red berries. This berry display can really brighten up a dull winter landscape!
I know what you're thinking, and yes, this Holly does drop its leaves. Most often, when Holly's are thought of, we think of them as being evergreen (holding onto their leaves all year long), but Winterberry Holly is a species of Holly that does, in fact, drop its leaves each fall which is special so the berries can be enjoyed that much more.
Speaking of enjoying the berries, birds will absolutely adore them! Several species of birds use Winterberry Holly as a high valued food source in late fall and early winter. Benefitting and attracting Eastern bluebirds, thrushes, cedar waxings, white-tailed sparrows, and so many more benefit from these berries as part of their winter food supply. If you get there before the birds do, many home gardeners use these loaded branch cuttings in fall and holiday decorating for in and around their home.
Cutting these branches each year can be beneficial as it will rejuvenate the plant to push new growth where the berries will develop the following year. I also recommend every three or four years removing the larger, older stems from the center of the plant. Simply cut these larger stems off a few inches from the ground to allow the younger, healthier stems to receive more energy from the roots.
I've also seen Audubon Native Winterberry Holly used in pond and rain garden landscapes. Where many other plants would not survive with wet roots, these Holly trees will thrive.
Now for a little plant nerd information. These Holly's are either male or female plants. In order to produce berries, they need to be cross-pollinated with each other. There could be some Native Winterberry Hollies close to your planting location that may provide this pollination for you, but I recommend buying at least two to up your odds so you and the birds can enjoy these berries year and year with Audubon Native Winterberry.
-John S, Grower