Sunday, February 3, 2013

A Berry Sweet Gift

For years I watched it grow.  It was a gift planted by a bird.  With no tag, all I could do was watch it, marvel at its beauty, and wonder.  What type of tree was this?  Or was it a shrub?  I could tell from the berries that it was a type of holly, but which type?  How tall would it grow?  I was anxious for more information, but the saying "a little birdie told me" was not true in this situation.  No bird was taking the credit for this beauty.  It was an anonymous gift.


The bird that planted it must have had some training in design.  It grows next to my winter garden area, and the berries are a beautiful addition to the entire area.  The berries shine in the sunlight, and it is a feature that is in just the right spot to catch your eye as you come up the driveway.  The perfect position!  I couldn't have planted it in a better place myself.

Every year it grows taller and stronger.  Every year its beauty grows, too.  I love this little gift, but for all these years, I have wondered about its identity.  Until finally, I saw my mystery holly in a picture on a garden blog.  Phillip at Dirt Therapy had a picture of his holly which was the spitting image of my mystery plant.  And he knew its name: a possomhaw holly.

A possomhaw holly!  Even the name is cute!  I was happy to have an identification, even happier that it had an adorable name.

Possomhaw holly (Ilex decidua)

Possomhaw hollies (Ilex decidua) grow in zones 5 through 9, and up to 30 ft tall!  They lose their leaves in winter, showing off the berries even more than most hollies.  It's branches gently hang down, enticing you to have a closer look at its string of red pearls.

Of course, I also have other berries in my garden.  The red berries and green leaves of the dwarf Burford hollies show up in various places in my garden.


And the black berries of the 'Bay Breeze' dwarf Indian hawthorn are subtle and sophisticated.


But it's the berries of the possomhaw holly that I love to see.  

A gift.  Beautiful, striking, and unusual.  Thank you, sweet little anonymous bird.

64 comments:

  1. What a wonderful post!! You are so right...what a wonderful gift and exactly in the right place! You must have a little garden helper that you weren't aware of! The berries are beautiful. I also have dwarf Burford Hollies and a Bay Breeze Indian Hawthorne, but my Hawthorne rarely gets berries...very odd!

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    1. I'm surprised. Mine are always full of berries. Of course, I have about 6 of them, and maybe if only have one or two perhaps that makes a difference.

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  2. What a great gift, I have never heard of deciduous hollies, had to look up your Possumhaw hollie - and it's a big tree! Lovely :-) How tall is yours now?

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    1. Mine is about 10 ft tall now. It's actually growing beside a tree that is dying. So, an added plus is when that tree dies, my possomhaw holly will be there to take its place!

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  3. How outstanding! To know that you received this free beautiful gift just goes to show you how spectacular nature is! The holly is stunning!

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    1. I just love little gift like that. This has probably been my best one!

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  4. What a lovely plant! Truly a 'gift' from from Mother Nature :)

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    1. And I don't think I've seen another like it around here, but I suppose there is one somewhere. I've been thinking of trying to plant some of its berries to see if I could get another tree, but I doubt I would be as good at it as the birds!

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  5. Very pretty. I love Holly and love seeing the extra berries in my trees and bushed to feed the birds over the Winter months.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

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    1. I love hollies, too, and like that there are so many to choose from!

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  6. The berries on this shrub are truly beautiful, I can see why you like it so much, bright and cheery on a winters day.

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    1. It really does shine in the sunlight! Plus, with the leaves gone, its berries really make a show!

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  7. Hi Holley, what a nice story! It is almost unbelievable that the bird "planted" the holly exactly in the right spot in your garden. Well done! Have a good start into the new week!
    Christina

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    1. It's amazing that it didn't get mowed over, or weed-whacked! So much could have happened, but instead I got a beautiful tree!

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  8. What an attractive plant. The birds must have known it was your namesake! The birds around here are determined that I will have a privet forest, although they once planted a nice Boston Ivy for me, for which I am grateful. I think!

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    1. I've heard that privet can be quite invasive, but thankfully, I've never seen any around here planted by the birds. I wish one would plant a Boston ivy for me! I think it is just gorgeous.

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  9. A house in my neighborhood has one of these trees, it's at least 15 feet tall and beautiful right now. As for me - I found a little holly growing in the shrubs at the front of the house. I plan to move it to the back flower garden some time in near future - just for a splash of evergreen. It's great to find the freebies left by the birds... Now the oak trees that are coming up in the roses are another matter - the squirrels are driving me nuts.

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    1. So nice that you got a free holly, too! I agree with you about the oak tree seedlings, though! I am constantly pulling them up! If as many grew as I pulled up, we would be living in an oak forest!

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  10. I wish my birds had some training in design like your helpful birds do. What a lovely plant they put in just the right spot. And it's fun to watch something unknown grow, then do some research to find out what it is. Discovery!

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    1. I have watched this little holly for some years. I knew it was a holly, so it stayed. Only until it has gotten bigger have I realized that it is in the perfect spot!

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  11. The deciduous hollies are beautiful, aren't they? I am impressed that yours still has so many berries. Haven't the birds found them yet? Mine are picked clean by November at the latest!

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    1. I'm not sure I've seen many deciduous hollies before - or maybe they just didn't register in my mind. But, yes, I love it. And it must not taste good to my birds - they don't seem interested in its berries. Or maybe it's the cats hanging around that are discouraging them!

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  12. Awwwww, I love this story and the way you tell makes it even more precious. This would make a lovely children's picture book story by the way :) Now I want a Possomhaw Holly bush too!

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    1. Isn't it funny that all it takes is a picture on a blog and we gardeners are putting it on our list! I do the same thing! :)

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  13. The Possumhaw is always so beautiful- we have a huge one growing in the field next to us. I love the berries- so vibrant. Nice bird!!! =0)

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    1. Oh, I would love to see your huge one! I can only imagine how gorgeous it must be in winter standing out in the field all aglow!

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  14. Oh I know this as Winterberry! Where we lived in MI there was a huge one and it honestly was my favorite winter plant EVER! Love it and have been wanting one but wasn't sure how well they would grow if we don't have much winter where I now live.

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    1. I think they may be different plants, but I am just now learning about this, so I am no expert! I bet this would grow just fine where you are now.

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  15. what a lovely gift from the birds. All I get is bird poop :)
    That is beautiful and it's no wonder you admire it so!

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    1. Bird poop! haha I think that's why seeds "given" by the birds do so well - the fertilizer is mixed along with the seed!

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  16. Hollies are one of the plants I lack that I really regret not having. Your possumhaw is lovely!

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    1. I love hollies. Tough, durable, and dependable. Just the type of plant I love!

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  17. I've never heard of a possumhaw holly! I have heard of winterberry though. It is amazing that grew from a little seed dropped onto your garden from above. Fantastic plant and definitely a fantastic gift :)

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    1. It is quite amazing to think that this little thing survived all the mowers and weed whackers, droughts and poor soil. I'm glad it did, though!

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  18. Hi Holley! I've seen and liked that ilex on Philip's blog just the other day too, so please send that little birdie to poo over here in my garden! :-)

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    1. haha - I'll try to send a bird right over! :)

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  19. I'm quite new to gardening so didn't even realise that Hollies could be deciduous! Thank heavens for birds x

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    1. I really like the way this one loses its leaves. The other hollies I have have berries, but they don't show up nearly as well hidden under all that green!

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  20. Hi Holley, What intrigues me even more is that hollies generally need a male and a female in order to properly pollinate and get the berries. So this tells me that there must be a male plant nearby. Ditto with your Burford. Or maybe both of these types have male and female flowers. Your bird/planter deserves a Master Gardener badge of honor!

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    1. I have wondered about that too, Grace. I'm not certain I would know what a male possomhaw would look like - and I wonder how close it would have to be. I have lots of burfords, so I'm certain I have a male there. I hope wherever the male possomhaw is, it's doing well.

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  21. Love possomhaw hollies. Thank you for the comment on my blog. Always nice to find a fellow TX gardener. Look forward to following along:)

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    1. I like finding other Texas gardeners, too. We area a tough breed to survive our hot summers!

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  22. Very cute indeed! It makes hollies look even better when they are deciduous, I think! What a beautiful addition to a winter garden.

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    1. I am loving this deciduous holly - I have never had one before, just the evergreen kind, but I love the way it really shows off its berries!

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  23. I've never known this plant Possomhaw hollies, I love its berries. Are they eatable?

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    1. I don't think so, Nadezda, in fact they may be poisonous! I wouldn't eat them, that's for sure!

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  24. How delightful to have a garden beauty you didn't have to pay for!

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  25. I don't know this delightful holly, I love the way the berries look airy and graceful instead of heavy. Does it need much water? Christina

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    1. I think its water needs are probably about average. Mine is planted where it gets irrigated with the rest of my garden, so I suppose that is how it made it through our long drought two years ago. Although, I suppose they do grow in the wild!

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  26. I love the serendipity of beautiful plants in the garden that I didn't plant! What a lovely holly!

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    1. I am such an aggressive weeder, I don't usually enjoy gifts such as these! This was just one lucky bush!

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  27. A holly for a Holley, I like that notion.

    I've known for years that there was an evergreen native holly underneath a tangle of overgrown azaleas under a pecan tree here. Last year after the azaleas bloomed I cut them to the ground, cut away years of catbrier, euonymous and wild roses and found the little holly was now tall as me. It isn't ideally situated, but it stays.

    Birds have given me dogwoods, sparkleberry, pipevine and other delights as some real nuisances like smilax and Virginia creeper.

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    1. Wow - amazing that holly could grow under there with such little light. They really are tough plants. Your birds are more generous than mine! Of course, mine have given me quite a bit of Virginia creeper! :(

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  28. Every Christmas on the prairies I pined for the holly of my English childhood. Newly moved to the coast, I am physically pulled towards each holly bush and tree I see. I would hug them if they weren't so prickly.

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    1. haha - Don't hug the hollies! :) I can imagine, though, that having a plant similar to the ones you remember as a child bring some comfort. I hope you have (or get) some hollies in your own garden.

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  29. I love my native holly, winterberry which looks very similar....the birds strip it even before winter comes...that was one special bird....

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    1. Wasn't it a sweetheart? Wish I knew which one it was... I'm just hoping it wasn't one of those buzzards that fly overhead! :O

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  30. Possumhaw is one of my favorites. I have six plants of various sizes in my garden. The cedar waxwings circling my neighborhood will strip them of their berries soon. One year, the birds overlooked the berries on one of my plants and they persisted through the following summer. It was interesting to see both green and red berries on the plant at the same time.

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    1. Oh, how wonderful to have so many of these plants! And also wonderful to be visited by the cedar waxwings as they go through. They have not yet found my one little tree, but hopefully, they will find it some year.

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