Winterberry holly (Ilex verticillata) is a deciduous holly bush indigenous to wetlands in the eastern half of Canada and the U.S. As stated on Page 1, usefulness for attracting wild birds in winter is one of the criteria considered for this list, and the fruit of winterberry (see photo at right) will certainly attract birds to your property. Far from being a drawback, its deciduous nature is actually a benefit for the winter landscape. Why would you want leaves to be in the way when you have such gorgeous berries to behold?
A dioecious shrub (as are bayberry and evergreen holly), to ensure fruit production it is best to plant several shrubs together, to increase your chances of finding a male plant to accompany the females. For a full-length feature on this shrub, please consult Brighten the Winter Landscape With Winterberry Holly.
Three varieties of birch trees lend considerable interest to the winter landscape, two of them (the second and third entries below) because of their bark. You can learn more about them in my full article on birch trees:
- Young's weeping birch (Betula pendula 'Youngii')
- Paper birch (Betula papyrifera)
- Yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis)
Yews are renowned for being plants in our Christmas traditions. These conifers bear evergreen needles and bright red berries. But keep children away from both the foliage and the berries of these poisonous plants; the seeds and needles are quite toxic. Please consult my full-length article for more information on yew shrubs.
Are you surprised to see eastern hemlock trees (Tsuga canadenesis) included in a list of landscaping plants? You may think of them first and foremost as tall trees (60' or more) that you encounter out in the woods. But plant developers have bred cultivars that are more shrub-like, which are well-suited for use in hedges, etc. Shear them to keep them at the desired height. Whether used in hedges or as specimens, these evergreen conifers will help give your winter landscape some much-needed visual interest.
Like winterberry holly, Viking black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa 'Viking') tolerates poorly-drained soils. Like American cranberrybush viburnum (see Page 1) and barberry (see Page 3), this shrub provides foliage that ranges from red to purple in fall, making it a two-season standout. Viking black chokeberry is hardy to zone 3. As with all the berries mentioned in this article, chokeberry berries serve as an emergency food for wild birds. They're not the birds' first choice (they are astringent or otherwise unpalatable, which is why they stick around so long!). But when the birds get desperate, these plants are their salvation. Its white flowers in May yield to purplish black berry clusters. It grows to a height of 3'-5', with a spread of 3'-5'.
On Page 3 we consider two shrubs which, while formerly popular in winter landscaping, are no longer recommended, due to their invasive nature....