Dress up winter scenes with the deep green leaves and bright red berries of Castle Spire holly (Ilex x meserveae). This holly has a narrow shape (3-4 feet) that works great as part of a foundation planting or hedge. Plants grow 6 to 10 feet tall. Hardy in Zones 5-7.
Strong berry production, glossy evergreen leaves and a compact pyramidal shape make Castle Spire holly a great choice for smaller yards. Plants eventually grow 8-12 feet tall and 3-4 feet wide. Use one as a specimen, or plant several to form a screen. This is also a great choice for a bird-friendly landscape. Hardy in Zones 5-7. Botanical name: Ilex x meserveae ‘Hachfee’
This holly is the result of a cross between an English and Chinese holly. Leaves are glossy, and many gardeners use plants as a privacy screen. Flowers are easy to miss, but give rise to eye-catching berries. Plants grow 15 to 20 feet tall and up to 10 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 6 to 9. Botanical name: Ilex x ‘Nellie R. Stevens’
These wedding bouquets incorporate the rich, deep reds and snowy-whites of the season. Other wintery florals to consider using include pine boughs, cymbidium orchids, boxwood boughs, camellia buds, magnolia leafs and holly berries. Floral design: Blooming Gallery. Planner: Something to Celebrate.
A terrarium made from old windows and architectural elements is a great place to display holiday greenery, a nativity, ornaments, plants or outdoor candles. Home decor blogger Amy Buchanan of AttaGirlSays also clipped greenery and holly berries from her yard for this terrarium on her front porch, which contributes to the rustic style with vintage appeal. When working with old windows and painted wood, be sure to test for lead paint, Buchanan says.
Bright red winterberries add cheerful color to swags of cut greenery. 'Berry Heavy' is a selection that bears a heavy crop of bright orange-red fruits. Choose 'Berry Nice' for lots of dark red, shiny berries.
Ilex verticillata is a holly that loses its leaves in fall, leaving stems studded with berries. Commonly known as winterberries, ilex berries are available in bright red, orange or yellow; the yellow ones are great for Thanksgiving and fall arrangements, says grower Bill Prescott, of Stargazer Barn. "Winterberries grow all over the U.S.," he says. "Ours are bred for floral use, so they have long stems and nice, lateral branches that are dense with berries."
As the nights get colder, winterberries lose their leaves, says Prescott, and Stargazer Barn starts to harvest the berry-laden branches. Birds love to feast on the berries in the field, he says, and black bears that roam in the mountains where the plants are grown often knock down fences to dine on them, too.
Winterberry windowboxes, like this one, last a long time in cool weather. Tuck stems or sprigs of the berries into a box planted with dwarf conifers, decorated with pine cones or filled with cut greenery.
Grower Bill Prescott says winterberries are attractive enough to use by themselves in vases or other arrangements. If a few berries start to turn brown or wilt, just pick them off and discard them. Note: the ASPCA says winterberries are toxic to dogs, cats and horses. Avoid using winterberries around animals and children.
When you're ready to arrange your harvested winterberry branches, cut about an inch off each stem, at an angle. Strip off any berries that would be below the water line in your container, to help prevent bacteria from growing, and add fresh water and a floral preservative.
Prescott says the perfume of Oriental lilies mingles with the scent of fresh-cut cedar to make this floral arrangement, called "Deck the Halls", smell "magical, like Christmas". The Oriental lilies are 'White Cup' and the greenery is 'Port Orford', a cedar picked from the evergreen forests that surround Stargazer Barn.
A gray urn comes to life with an arrangement of red winterberries and assorted greenery. In the wild, winterberries can be found growing in moist wooded areas, swamps or along streams and ponds. In the garden or landscape, the plants grow slowly and need little maintenance.
For a textural approach, wrap twine, in assorted colors and thicknesses, around a foam wreath form. Use glue to attach the end of the twine to the back of the wreath, and embellish with felt holly leaves and berries.
Japanese beetles tend to avoid hollies, and ‘Afterglow’ winterberry is no exception. This is a deciduous holly—it drops its leaves in fall. No leaves means the berried stems sparkle through winter. Hardy in Zones 3-9. Use as a hedge or in a rain garden.
alt text: Ilex verticillata ‘Afterglow’