My grandpa had a saying about our climate in Oklahoma: “It’s hotter than hell in the summertime, and in winter there’s nothing between you and the North Pole but a barbed wire fence.” That was certainly the case this January as temperatures plummeted (yet again) into the single digits.
In the Windsor pollinator garden, you’ll still see native plants putting on a winter show despite the cold. Take the Possumhaw (Ilex decidua ‘Warren’s Red’), for example. These native holly trees are located at the southeast corner near the pine tree. Although this group was planted just last year, they are starting to sport bright red berries. These large shrubs/small trees look similar to our native evergreen Yaupon hollies, but the leaves of the possumhaw turn bright gold in the fall before they drop, leaving behind a cloud of red berries that persist through winter. Birds generally leave them alone until spring, at which point they devour them.
Possumhaws are clump-forming, multi-trunked shrubs/small trees that can reach up 15-20 feet tall & wide. Once established, they are drought tolerant and require no maintenance other than pruning suckers to control the shape. Pollinators love the white, inconspicuous blooms in spring, but it’s the heavy display of berries that steal the show and feed the birds. These hollies do best in full to partial sun, and the berries really pop when planted with evergreens in the background. Hollies are dioecious, so only the females produce berries. The most prominent cultivar, Warren’s Red, is a home-grown hero first marketed by Otis Warren and Son Nursery in Oklahoma City.