Blooms, Branches and Berries
By Jerry “Paw-paw” Wochna
The typical winter landscape is stark, with grays, browns and whites. There seems to be little hope of bright colors until spring. But wait…
There is hope! And it is found in a shrub which is native to Ohio called Ilex verticillata
, commonly known as winterberry. Just around November, as the leaves fall off this shrub, the bright red berries of the female winterberry begin their stunning display. And here is the added pleasant surprise - the deer and the Japanese beetles won’t eat any part of this shrub; but late in the winter hungry birds will descend to polish off those berries. What a show!
Go to your local nursery and ask for this shrub. The nursery person should be knowledgeable to help you pair the female winterberries with some appropriate males. Winterberries are dioecious (separate male and female plants). Only fertilized female flowers in the spring will produce those attractive red berries in winter. I have had good success with a circle design using two males in the center surrounded by five to seven females on the outer ring.
Another great showpiece in the winter landscape is Cornus sericea,
commonly known as red twig dogwood. It is also a native of Ohio and glistens when the suns rays hit those red branches. Red twig dogwood also catches the eye after a fresh crisp white snow fall. Wow: what a contrast in colors!
Now for the impossible? The blooms. Our little viola and pansy flowers are lovers of the cool weather. Add a few of these flowers beneath your winterberry and red twig dogwood for splashes of extra color. They will retreat in severe cold but on days near or above freezing they will start to rally.
On a cold snowy day, with of course a hot cup of tea, cocoa, or coffee, you can watch from your window and admire your colorful winter landscape.
About the Author
Jerry "Paw Paw" Wochna has been with Cleveland Metroparks for twenty years and is currently working in Rocky River Reservation. His passions are native pollinating plants, farming, and making maple syrup. Some of you met Jerry at our Donor Appreciation Dinner last year, where he brought a red wagon full of beautiful native plants!