a showier winterberry holly: ‘sunsplash’

detail ilex verticllata sunsplashI 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.

more on gold in the garden, and winterberries

  1. Deborah B says:

    I have one large group of winterberries, that fruit heavily like your picture above. Usually I have the berries to look at until late winter, but this year a flock of migrating robins spent three or four days with us. When they left a couple weeks ago, the bushes were bare. I like that they were put to good use, but it leaves a dark spot where I’m used to seeing a bright burst of color this time of year. I do have red-twig dogwoods (Cornus Cardinal) planted in a bed just behind the winterberries, so that helps, but it just isn’t the same.

    1. margaret says:

      I hear you, Deborah. Some years they strip all my crabapples in fall, too. I guess it depends on the food supply elsewhere nearby or north of here ( believe robins are partial migrants, meaning they don’t go to the tropics or anything, but the robins you see in winter are not necessarily those you saw in summer). I have noted that they are less interested in “yellow” fruited or paler orange winterberries compared to bright red, so usually those will last longest — they get them on the return trip.

  2. Linda L Smith says:

    Winterberries are the punch I need in the yard right now. A dozen of these are on my
    wish list. Broken Arrow nursery is the one of the best!

  3. Valerie Gillman says:

    I just planted Sunsplash, too! My ilex gripe are the males-they need to breed variegated males to make them more lovable.Or dwarf males would help.

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