Red Isn’t Just for Valentine’s Day Anymore


Winter is not a season known for its color. Gray skies, leafless trees, and brown or snow-covered lawns don’t make for a very eye-catching color palette. However, add a few red berries and all of a sudden your landscape bursts with excitement. Nothing says “look at me” quite like red does.

When most of us think of trees or shrubs with red berries, we think of the American Holly (Ilex opaca). There are many other Ilex varieties that produce beautiful red berries. Two excellent examples that can be found at Morris Arboretum are Red Beauty Holly (Ilex x ‘Rutzan’) and Lassie Koehne Holly (Ilex x koehneana ‘Lassie’). Both are evergreens that sport abundant clusters of bright red berries that closely hug the stems, however the leaves of Red Beauty are smaller, denser, and deeper green than Lassie, and the berries appear to be a darker red.




Winterberry holly is a species of holly that has red berries, but is deciduous, meaning it loses its leaves in the fall. The bold-colored berries lining leafless branches are very striking in the winter landscape. You can’t help but notice the Winter Red Common Winterberry (Ilex verticillata ‘Winter Red’) near the far end of the Oak Allée. One of my favorite winterberry hollies at the Arboretum is the Scarlett O’Hara Common Winterberry (Ilex verticillata “Scarlett O’Hara’). I think it may be in part because of the name, however, it may also have to do with location. I find it to be particularly beautiful overhanging the creek. 




Dense evergreens make a nice backdrop to shrubs with red berries. A good example of this is at the Swan Pond, where the colorful berries of Finetooth Holly (Ilex serrata) pop out from the green foliage behind it.



Unrelated to hollies, yet still a producer of red berries, is the evergreen Heavenly Bamboo. The berries of Moyer’s Red Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina domestic ‘Moyer’s Red’) seem to float on top of its thin stems.



If you are looking for an attention-getter to add to your winter landscape, look for trees or shrubs with red berries. Not only do they add color to your yard, they help feed the birds as well! 

Thank you to guest blogger Kristen Bower