Our pick of the week is Possumhaw holly, Ilex decidua. Cedar waxwings, like this one dining at the Kyles, love the fall and winter berries. They are also favored by mockingbirds, American robins, and other wildlife. Despite the horrible summer, the Kyles’ possumhaws are covered with berries.
This native shrub is deciduous, adding colorful interest to what might otherwise be a drab winter garden. It gets 15 to 30 feet tall, and 15 feet wide, so could actually be treated as a small tree. Like other hollies, the leaves are thick and glossy during the growing season, and these turn yellow in the fall, before they are dropped. This plant really needs full sun to produce a good crop of winter berries, but it can tolerate some shade. As you might guess, since it sailed through the hellacious summer of 2011, it should not be overwatered, and may rot if it is planted in an area with poor drainage. But even though it doesn’t like much water, you should still give it a drink every now and then during long periods without rainfall.