Hollies do make a statement

The year 2010, evidently, was the year I finally acquired some selected holly plants I had been wanting ever since we cut down ours for various reasons. Hollies, as we know, are one of the most versatile, multipurpose landscape plants in any garden. Although their popularity becomes noticeably high during Christmas time, when sprigs and berries are sought after for adding to wreaths and holiday decorations, flower arrangers use green branches just about any time to make a line, or use as filler material for their creations.

Furthermore, hollies provide the much-needed food and shelter for our feathered friends.

However, as much as I had set my heart on hollies, because of a lack of available space and sunlight in our yard, I did not have the liberty of growing hollies just for the sake for it. I had, rather, to choose wisely. Luck, nevertheless, was with me when I met John Wise, a Richmond-based horticulturist, who is not only very knowledgeable, but sells unusual and rare plants grown at his own premises. The Virginia holly, Ilex virginiana, a native evergreen shrub I have purchased from him, is rather small at present, but is bound to be a welcome addition to our garden and I am looking forward to watching it grow.

The other holly that has been on my wish list for a while is a deciduous one, and it bears brilliantly colored berries on bare wood in winter. Named aptly, the “winterberry,” a fruiting shrub or a small tree, as the case might be, is truly a sight to behold, especially against the white backdrop of freshly-fallen snow. But, for the last several years, by the time I would look for one, it invariably was too late in the season. Incidentally, the main reason I wanted to procure a plant during the dead of winter when hardly anyone shops for such items is to make sure I am getting a female plant. I am happy to report that I finally do have one now, for the Ilex verticillata, or “Sparkleberry,” that the friendly folks at the Boulevard Flower Gardens in Colonial Heights ordered very promptly this past December is loaded with lovely red berries.

Interestingly, hollies in general bear male and female flowers on separate plants and it is the female plant that produces the valued asset of the plant: The berries. Therefore, a male plant that blooms at the same time as the female is necessary within the vicinity for successful pollination and fruit set. To ensure the annual show of the winterberry, the garden center has recommended growing a pollinator scheduled for availability in spring. Needless to say, I have made a mental note to myself not to forget to get the winterberry a mate.

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