Search This Blog

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Red and Green

Those of you who live on the West Coast probably know that we are being urged not to grow the beautiful English Holly tree (Ilex aquifolium) because it has been identified as an invasive species in our area.  We’ve removed a big specimen that was growing in the center of our yard and continue to dig out its seedlings when they appear each year.

We still have one more English Holly tree growing along our driveway and we are going to have to take it down when we find the time.  It was not planted there but is part of a hedgerow of mostly native plants, no doubt the result of a bird enjoying a berry on a nearby tree.  Incidentally, it is the Holly’s ability to thrive in this situation that makes it an invasive species and not that it grows enthusiastically in our gardens.  Invasive plants are those that grow in untended areas and out-compete the native plants, gradually displacing them. 

Cedar waxwings in a nearby conifer
I have always enjoyed the sight of those dark green leaves accented by bright red berries and thought I would have to do without it.  However, a couple of times lately my eye has been drawn to a low growing groundcover with the same pleasing color combination.
Bright Red Wintergreen Berries

Gaultheria procumbens, Wintergreen, is an Eastern U.S. woodland native with dark green foliage, white urn-shaped flowers followed by bright red berries. Both the berries and foliage are pleasantly scented and contain methyl salicylate which is the source of wintergreen oil. This stoloniferous, creeping evergreen groundcover is extremely cold hardy and survives temperatures to -40 degrees F.  It prefers partial shade and humus rich soils and adapts to both dry and moist conditions, making it another great choice for the dry woodland garden.  Yea!
Gaultheria probumbens groundcover

If you love the holly leaf, try growing our NW native Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifolium).  The flowers are yellow and the berries are dark purple, but the leaves are shiny, spiny and dark green even in mid-winter.  Hmm, I wonder if I could tuck those leaves in my Christmas wreath?
Frosted Oregon Grape Foliage

No comments:

Post a Comment