The American Holly is a native evergreen tree that can grow to 60 feet. It has plenty to offer throughout the year, but is most spectacular in winter when its dark green leaves and red, berry-like fruits provide wonderful color and contrast to an otherwise leafless landscape. These traits also make the American holly a popular choice for use in holiday decorations. They are dioecious (having separate male and female plants) and only females can produce berries, thus requiring a male plant for pollination. Though toxic to humans, the berries are an important food source for many native wildlife including squirrels, chipmunks, foxes, raccoons, box turtles and several species of songbirds.
An understory tree, the American Holly grows well in shade, but planting it in more sunny locations will allow for denser foliage. These trees can tolerate extreme pruning and can be cut back to suit anyone’s vision.
One of the few deciduous hollies, winterberry holly produces an abundance of persistent red berries that provide a splash of color throughout winter.
Commonly found in both wooded areas and swampy areas, this holly will grow 6 to 10 feet tall in an upright, spreading manner. They grow best in moist, poorly-drained soils and in full sun to partial shade, though plants in sunny areas produce more berries. These berries only form on female plants and require male plants for pollination. So for best results, be sure to plant a male nearby.
Winterberry hollies are great plants for massing in wet soils or prominently along borders where the berries can be viewed during the winter. They are easy to maintain and have few insect and disease problems.
The Christmas fern is a lovely, evergreen fern that offers year-round interest. It provides a bit of deep green color on gloomy winter days and the fiddleheads, or crosiers, provide interest in spring as they begin to unfurl against the previous year’s leaves. Its common name is a reference to how early settlers used the evergreen fronds for Christmas decorations, but some believe it may also be because of its Christmas stocking shaped leaves.
The 12 to 18 inch tall fern is fairly adaptable, growing in full shade to part sun and in rich, moist soils to dry, rocky slopes. It is great for shady woodland gardens and massing along rocky slopes to discourage soil erosion. Christmas fern does not suffer from any serious insect or disease problems.