By Elise Ford
When all else is
drab or solemnly evergreen in the winter landscape, the bright
red fruits of winterberry hollies take center stage.
verticillata is a deciduous, 6- to- 10-foot shrub native to
eastern North America and hardy in USDA zones 3-9. Wild
winterberries are found in swampy areas or along low-lying river
and stream banks that periodically flood.
Winterberry in Summer
The flowers are
small and almost inconspicuous but popular with pollinators,
especially honeybees. Quarter-inch round, bright red fruits
ripen in September and persist on plants until December or
January. Some varieties keep their colorful fruit until March or
April. There also are winterberry cultivars with orange or gold
The berries are
eaten by many bird species but are not their first food choice
since they have a low fat content. They are more likely to be
eaten in late winter when other food sources are depleted. Cut
some berried branches to enjoy inside during the holidays.
thrive in rain gardens but also will do well in loamy garden
soil that is moist, acidic, well-drained and organically rich.
Site plants in full sun for best fruit production. It suckers
from its roots, forming multistemmed clumps ideal for
stabilizing hillsides. Mass plants in the shrub border to
maximize the berry display.
hollies are dioecious, with male and female flowers on separate
plants. One male plant will pollinate five female plants and
should be planted close by. To ensure pollination, it is
important to choose a male pollinator that blooms at the same
time as the female plants. Here are some good pollinator
• ‘Red Sprite,’
an early-blooming, female dwarf cultivar, with the male ‘Jim
• ‘Winter Red’,
‘Winter Gold’ and ‘Sparkleberry’, all late-blooming females,
with ‘Apollo’ or ‘Southern Gentleman.’
Chief' is considered a universal male pollinator because of its
long bloom time and can be planted with most female cultivars.
Red twig dogwoods
By P.A. Flinn
This is a
deciduous shrub that captures interest after its leaves drop,
adding a splash of color to the garden over the winter months.
The bare stems are bright red, with some species and cultivars
sporting yellow or yellow-red stems. Three species are the most
common: Tatarian dogwood (Cornus alba), red osier
dogwood (C. sericea) and blood twig dogwood (C.
multistemmed and medium-sized (up to 8 feet tall and wide) with
green or variegated foliage in summer. Red twig dogwoods grow in
full sun to part shade and are not fussy about soil.
These shrubs show
off their stem color best in mass groupings, including border
plantings. The youngest stems produce the most vibrant color, so
annual pruning is recommended. Simply cut to the ground
one-fourth of the stems — the oldest, thickest ones — every year
in February or March to force new growth from the roots.
Red twig dogwoods
respond well to “stooling,” the process of cutting all stems
back to about 9 inches from the ground in early spring. Stooling
can be useful if a shrub is outgrowing its allotted space or
looking tired. Red twig dogwood branches can be safely cut in
the winter for use in holiday arrangements.
Deer may browse
the colorful stems in winter, but usually do no severe damage.
Most cultivars are fairly disease and pest-free, but can be
susceptible to leaf spot and dogwood sawfly. Occasional watering
during hot, dry summer conditions can help prevent leaf spot.
Sawfly larvae may cause unsightly damage to the leaves, but
usually they will not harm the shrub.
By Barbara Murphy
Sensitive fern is
a native perennial that earned its common name because its green
fronds die quickly when nipped by the first frost. But its seed
heads linger through the winter.
sensibilis produces two distinct types of fronds. Its
sterile vegetative fronds are 2 to 3 feet long, triangular and
composed of regular alternating leaflets with wavy margins.
Though beautiful in the summer and fall, they shrivel with the
fertile fronds appear in late summer, turn dark brown and remain
upright throughout the winter months. The dark fronds covered
with delicate bead-like spore cases are striking against a
snow-covered background. They are also popular in dried floral
Easily grown in
partial to full shade and moist, loose soil, sensitive fern is
not fussy about soil types. It spreads by creeping underground
rhizomes as well as spores. It is a great native groundcover in
shaded areas and may spread rapidly, especially in damp areas,
so choose a spot where it has room to roam. This fern is
deer-resistant and has no serious insect or disease problems,
but it is sensitive to drought.
Pickling the Harvest
Vegetable Garden Planning