A shrub for many Merry Christmas decorations and for feeding the feathery friends through the long winter month.
Counting the days till Christmas, one is thinking about all lovely, bright red winter berries which make all the lovely wreath and garlands.
Besides other better known Ilex types there is a rather less known ( at least in Europe) Winterberry called Ilex Verticillata.
Ilex verticillata is a 1–5 metres (3.3–16 ft) tall shrub. It is one of a number of hollies which are losing their leaves in the fall. In wet sites, it will spread to form a dense thicket, while in dry soil it remains a tight shrub. The leaves are glossy green, 3.5–9 cm long, 1.5–3.5 cm broad, with a serrated margin and an acute apex. The flowers are small, 5 mm diameter, with five to eight white petals.
The fruit is a globose red drupe 6–8 mm diameter, which often persists on the branches long into the winter, giving the plant its English name.
Ilex Verticillata " Red Sprite"
Hollies are dioecious plants – male and female flowers grow on separate plants. It is necessary hence to have a male plant nearby for the female plants to produce the highly desirable fruit.
It is a tough plant which is easy to grow, with very few diseases or pests. Although wet acidic soils are optimal, the winterberry will grow well in the average garden. Numerous cultivars are available, differing in size and shape of the plant and color of the berry. At least one male plant must be planted in proximity to one or more females for them to bear fruit.
Concerning the growing conditions the American Winterberry requires sun to partial shade and a range of soil types (dry, wet) but prefers moist, organic soil.
It is hardy in zones 3 - 9.
Besides being a gorgeous plant for winter decoration purposes, this Ilex is a wonderful food source for bees during the flowering period and later for birds , with its copious load of fruit.
Check this link for a list of cultivars, described acurately: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/factsheets/trees-new/cultivars/ilex_verticillata-table.html