Holiday decor abounds in Mother Nature


Mother Nature decorates for the holidays, too. Many green-foliaged plants are covered with red berries right now and this phenomenon adds a little sparkle to an otherwise ho-hum winter landscape.

My favorite shrub for red berries in winter is a deciduous holly, Ilex verticillata. This time of year it has dropped every leaf and each little stem is loaded with small red berries. They are very showy and I wish I had a whole grove of them instead of the two I have. Only the female has fruit, but the male is necessary for pollination.

Winterberry really prefers a moist site and if grown in this condition has a more rounded habit than the upright stance mine have taken in their location in my yard that never gets any extra water. Pruning is unnecessary and I appreciate that about them, too.

Pyracantha, P. coccinea, is spectacular this time of year, too. The red pomes appear in bunches on the stems of last year's growth and will last most of the winter if not devoured by birds. It is semi-evergreen and in a protected spot maintains its small green leaves until early spring.

This shrub can grow to almost 20 feet (and will) if serious measures with the pruners are not undertaken. Mine is espaliered against a south-facing wall and it is going to have to be discouraged this year from pushing the house roof off. If you prune, leave all the limbs on which you hope to have fruit next winter, because it blooms on last year's growth. Long leather gloves are recommended when you work on this plant.

Nandina, N. domestica, doesn't like full sun and will light up a shady spot with sprays of red berries in winter. Nandina is a four-season plant. In spring, the leaves are lime-green, sometimes tinged with pink. It looks fresh and healthy all summer and begins its fruit production early so the crop is just right for Christmas arrangements.

Nandina has ugly knees, but you can fix this with pruners. Select a branch that grows out from the ground and cut it one-third of the way up. Select another and cut it two-thirds of the way up. Do this to several branches and it will fill out all up and down the plant. Cut away completely any old branches that have gotten too tall.

Now is a good time to plant any of these berry-producers for a winter show next year. They are readily available at local nurseries.

Winder resident Dora Fleming is a Georgia master gardener. E-mail her at dfleming1531@adelphia.