‘Tis the season

The hollies are appropriately adorned for the season with shiny red ornaments. There are at least ten, and probably closer to twenty varieties of upright growing hollies in the garden, and in early December many are loaded with red berries, more than I can recall in twenty-two years in this garden.

I’m certain that there is a simple explanation, but I haven’t a clue what it could be. Perhaps the extreme heat in July? Or the weather was just right for bees to be particularly active when the hollies were flowering? The abundant late summer and autumn rainfall? I don’t know, and it doesn’t really matter. There are bunches of plump red berries, and this is a good thing.

I’ve noted in the past, but again today that the native American hollies (Ilex opaca) that grow in the forest bordering the garden have no berries at all. Again, I have no explanation. Perhaps the seedlings are too young to flower, though at least one that I’ve cultivated has grown to nearly eight feet tall. Still, no berries.

The berries of the cultivars and hybrid hollies in the garden differ in size and gloss, and even by color with various shades of red (and a few that are still mostly green). Some hollies have small bunches of berries, and on others the berries are jammed along the branches so that another berry couldn’t be wedged in (Ilex x ‘Christmas Jewel’, above).

Through the winter birds will slowly pluck the berries, favoring some over others, but near winter’s end some remain that fall to the ground. It’s rare that I see seedlings, and the occasional sprout is likely to be a hybrid that doesn’t match any of the nearby parent plants.

My color vision is sadly lacking, so I cannot see the bright red berries against the hollies’ dark green foliage from a distance, but I am satisfied to stroll through the garden at any time through the late autumn and winter to enjoy these colorful ornaments.

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