If ‘Holly’ means ‘berries’ to you, then the Winter Bounty Holly is the one you should be growing. This unique holly has one of the most abundant berry crops of any holly bush, with bright-red berries crowding the stems in very large, dense clusters. As well, the oval leaves are spineless, so you can plant it near a path or entrance, without worrying about being scratched. Children will love to help harvest branches for the holidays, and you can let them do it without any tears.
Growing the Winter Bounty Holly
The Winter Bounty Holly quickly grows into a tall shrub or tree, reaching 14 feet, and eventually more, in just a few years. Yet it remains narrow, just 6 feet wide, and never more than 10 feet, meaning it fits well into narrow spaces, or in the angles between walls. It simply drips with berries, from top to bottom, in a spectacular display, from late fall and well through winter, before the berries are finally taken by your local birds, looking for food to get them through the winter. Grow this beautiful tree as a specimen in a lawn, around your home, at the back of shrub beds, or as a beautiful screen for privacy and noise filtering. With its evergreen foliage it always looks good, no matter what the season.
The leaves of the Winter Bounty Holly are up to 6 inches long and 2 inches wide, with a mid-green, glossy surface, smooth margins and no spines. Some people have said they look like the foliage of a Cherry Laurel. In spring, along the stems of the previous year, you will see clusters of small, greenish-yellow flowers opening. These gradually develop into tiny green berries, which by mid-fall have begun to color, turning a clear, vivid red, without the orange tones that some holly berries show. For months they stay on the bush, creating a wonderful display in a season when there is not much color in your garden. Holly berries are an important winter food for bird populations and planting this tree will certainly give them plenty to eat.
Planting and Initial Care
The Winter Bounty Holly is hardier than many others, growing well in zone 6, without protection, and thriving in zones 7 and 8 as well. It may even grow in sheltered parts of zone 5, such as against an east-facing wall. It grows best in dappled shade or morning sun, although it will grow well in full sun in rich, moist soil, and in cooler zones. It grows in most soils, and this vigorous bush quickly develops into its full size. Any well-drained soil, from sand to clay, will work well for this plant, and the very best conditions are found in moist, rich, slightly acidic soils. For a screen, plant trees at 5-foot intervals. This plant can be trimmed in late winter for neatness, but avoid regular clipping, as this will reduce berry production. Use evergreen fertilizers in March each year, before the new growth appears, for the very best results. It is rarely bothered by pests and diseases, but sadly, it is not deer resistant. Like all hollies, this female tree requires a male tree for pollination, and since it is grown for its berries, it is worth planting a male tree nearby. We recommend the hardy Blue Prince Holly as a suitable pollinator, and that variety will also pollinate a whole range of other holly varieties.
History and Origins of the Winter Bounty Holly
Dr. Elwin Orton has been breeding hollies at the Rutgers University Arboretum since the 1960s. He made crosses between many holly species, searching for plants with the potential for maximum berry production. Two species he worked with were Ilex ciliospinosa and Ilex latifolia. The first of these grows in western China, among forest trees, and it is noted for its big, bright red berries. The second is called tarajo in its native Japan, and this tree has large, deep red berries in big clusters. Dr. Orton grew many seedling trees from his cross, and selected the very best, after years of trials. The variety called ‘Winter Bounty’ was released for general production by Rutgers in 2009. It was originally known as ‘’H635-13′, which was Dr. Orton’s code for the seedling. Our plants are grown from rooted stem pieces derived from that original release, and this is one of the very best holly bushes for berries, as well as being an excellent all-round garden plant. Order now, because everyone loves those red holly berries.