Sunday, March 8, 2020

Plants in Early American Gardens - Winterberry Holly

Winterberry Holly (Male) (Ilex verticillata 'Jim Dandy')

This native shrub, also known as “black alder,” ranges from Newfoundland to Minnesota, south to Georgia and Tennessee and is typically found in swamps and by ponds. It was introduced to European gardens in 1736. 

Writing to Philadelphia plant collector William Hamilton in March, 1808, Thomas Jefferson referred to a recent shipment of plants that included 12 “Winter berry (Prinus verticillatus [sic]),” and noted that “the swamps in this neighborhood are now red with this berry” (the shrub was initially given the name Prinos verticillatus by Linnaeus). 

Garden historian Ann Leighton believes this is the “Red Berry” George Washington looked for when riding out to find movable shrubs and trees for Mount Vernon. One ‘Jim Dandy’ can pollinate up to 10 female Winterberry Hollies, and is recommended for the female ‘Maryland Beauty.’

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