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As the days grow colder and autumn inevitably gives way to winter, the ornamental garden needn’t be dull or boring. Of the many splendid shrubs and trees that offer color and texture to the winter landscape, Ilex verticillata is guaranteed to ignite your imagination and brighten your spirits. This deciduous member of the holly genus is better known as common winterberry holly. Clearly different from its evergreen relatives, winterberry holly sheds its summer foliage in late autumn exposing masses of densely packed red berries along bare stems. Whether displayed as a single specimen or in a mass planting, this shrub practically shouts: LOOK AT ME!! And so we do – with pleasure.
Winterberry hollies are dioecious. In other words, the shrubs are either male or female. Both male and female plants produce flowers, but only fertilized flowers on female winterberry shrubs produce berries. The flowers appear either singly or in small clusters along the stems. Each blossom has a green ovule in the center. Flowers on male winterberries appear in large clusters with several prominent yellow anthers protruding from the center of each blossom.Sources vary on the ratio of males to females needed for good pollination. In general, one male winterberry holly is adequate for pollinating three to six or more female plants.
To ensure pollination, a male winterberry holly must be planted within 40 to 50 feet of a female winterberry holly. Because some males are early blooming and others are late blooming, the appropriate male must be in bloom at the same time as the female. If properly pollinated, the female flowers give way to a crop of bright red berries in late summer to fall. The berries normally persist throughout the winter (hence the common name) and often into early spring.No matter which cultivar you select, winterberry holly is a glorious shrub worth including in your winter landscape. Better yet, choose several of them if you have room. This tough but beautiful, easy-to-grow shrub lights up the winter landscape with its festive and colorful berry display. Moreover, the birds will appreciate the berries over the winter months. (Source: piedmontmastergardeners.org)