a showier winterberry holly: ‘sunsplash’
I LOVE GOLD-LEAVED PLANTS, and I am at least as mad about winterberry hollies. When I learned this year that the two came in one package, there was probably no chance I’d escape heading to the cash register without at least one Ilex verticillata ‘Sunsplash’ in my cart.
The Broken Arrow Nursery introduction is in the ground now, and leafless, and though confined to a pot it only had a small number of orange-red fruit (yes, ‘Sunsplash’ is a female clone). I’m eager to see how we do in the year to come—how much gold the irregularly splashed leaves display, and how much fruit the plant will bear. (That’s Broken Arrow’s catalog up top, below, by comparison to my late-season leaf detail from a plant that has sent a whole summer in its pot, below.) Broken Arrow, which introduced the plant, touts it highly, and they have had years of experience with it.
I have more than 50 Ilex verticillata growing here, in three big groups—much to the delight of local birds. Though I cannot imagine a garden without the hollies, I have always had the one complaint: They’re ugly most of the year, except when fruiting (or at least they’re nondescript, and boring until them).
I have always many varieties of massed winterberries in outlying areas, such as the ones above, so I don’t have to look at them up close in spring and summer, but can enjoy the impact of all that fruit—like so many holiday ornaments—across the yard from October, till the birds have the last bite.
It seems as if ‘Sunsplash’ (Zones 3-9, probably 6 feet high and wide in time) could be the one winterberry that changes that strategy, and earns a place closer to home.