December’s Bloom Where You Are Planted Edition
Photo by Paul W. Meyer
Our History at Home offerings typically sprout from history and architecture. Today, and once every month, we offer a conservation cornucopia from the Conservancy and some friends on trees, gardening, and stormwater management. We hope to help you “Bloom Where You Are Planted.”
With open space in our community becoming more and more precious, the work of the Conservancy to preserve our green sense of place and architectural heritage has never been more critically important.
-Paul W. Meyer, Conservancy Board Member and Morris Arboretum’s
Retired F. Otto Haas Executive Director
Please join Paul and your neighbors in supporting the Conservancy’s work to come in 2022 by making a donation before December 31st! Every gift makes a difference. Thanks to all of our members and supporters who have already given. Your generous contributions ensure that our work as advocates and stewards for our community’s history, architecture, and open space will continue in the coming year.
Scroll down for a special raffle designed with our dedicated Bloom Where You Are Planted readers in mind, and thank you for your support!
Our Final Raffle:
A Signed Copy of Philadelphia Trees!
Today only, your online gift of any amount before midnight enters you into our final raffle for a copy of Philadelphia Trees: A Field Guide to the City and the Surrounding Delaware Valley, donated by the Morris Arboretum and signed by co-author, Conservancy Board member, and the Arboretum’s Retired F. Otto Haas Executive Director, Paul W. Meyer.
This portable guide identifies 118 trees in our region and is an excellent gift for big fans of Paul’s “Tree of the Month” articles and any tree-lovers in your life.
Thank you for your support and good luck! And many thanks to Paul W. Meyer and our friends at the Morris Arboretum!
(Details: Online donors who make a gift of any amount received by 11:59 pm EST on 12/28/21 will be entered into the raffle. Winners will be notified by 1/3/2022 to make arrangements to pick up your signed copy of Philadelphia Trees from Conservancy HQ.)
Charitable Tax Benefits Extended: The expanded charitable tax benefits from the 2020 CARES Act have been extended through 2021. Taxpayers who do not itemize can take an above-the-line deduction of up to $300, while those that do itemize their returns can take deductions for gifts made up to 100% of their adjusted gross income. Read this article on the IRS website or contact your tax adviser for details.
December – Winterberry Holly
by Paul W. Meyer, Conservancy Board Member and
Morris Arboretum’s Retired F. Otto Haas Executive Director
Winterberry Holly – Ilex verticilla
A heavily fruited winterberry holly is one of the most outstanding plants of the holiday season. It is beautiful outdoors in the garden and fruited cut branches hold up well as indoor decorations. Though not technically a tree, it grows to be a large, multi-stemmed shrub reaching 10-15 feet tall.
It is native to eastern North America and is most commonly found growing in moist areas along streams and on the edges of swamps. Unlike the evergreen American holly, its leaves turn yellow in the autumn and quickly drop, highlighting its bright red fruits borne on dark charcoal colored branches. As the holiday season approaches, bundles of fruited branches can be found on sale in garden centers and markets.
In cultivation, winterberry holly adapts well to most moderately moist, acidic soils. Though it tolerates shade, it fruits most heavily in sunny locations. As plants mature, they sucker from the ground, eventually forming a dense thicket. This characteristic, along with its prolific root system, makes it useful in stabilizing stream banks and controlling erosion.
Hollies are dioecious, bearing male and female flowers on separate plants. Since this shrub is grown primarily for its fruit, most gardeners prefer female clones, selected for their especially prolific fruit set. But, of course, a male must be in the neighborhood to get pollination and consequently good fruiting.
In recent decades, many clones of winterberry holly and its hybrids have been selected, with a variety of fruit colors including reds, oranges and yellows.  Clones can flower at slightly different times in the spring, so it is important that the male match the flowering times of the female. To facilitate this match-making, male clones are sold paired with particular female clones. This chart can help with pairing.
‘Winter Red’ is one of my favorite cultivars. Its fruits historically have lasted long into the winter, providing late winter food for birds when it is otherwise scarce. But in recent year, birds have stripped my ‘Winter Red’ winterberry hollies much earlier, sometimes even before the end of the year. To be safe, if you want the fruited branches for indoor holiday decorations, harvest early and store the cut stems in a cool protected location until ready to use.
Good pollinators for ’Winter Red’ include ‘Southern Gentleman’ and ‘Apollo’. One mature male will provide pollinators with enough pollen to fertilize many flowering females throughout the neighborhood.
For smaller gardens, choose one of the slower growing, compact selections. ‘Red Sprite’ and ‘Shaver’ are two widely grown dwarf female cultivars. ‘Jim Dandy’ is a good dwarf male pollinator.
In planning any garden, it is important to include plants that will provide dynamic interest every month throughout the year. Winterberry Hollies will dramatically fill the early winter gap when little else is happening in the garden.
See the full gallery of images HERE.
Photos by Paul W. Meyer
Top: Snow highlights the dark branches and red fruits on this fine grouping of winterberry holly.
Second: The fruits of winterberry holly typically turn red early October, before the leavevs fall in the autumn.
Third: Winterberry holly is well-adapted to wet soils and can help prevent streamside erosion. Here it is growing along the papermill Run at the Morris Arboretum.
Fourth: A mass of winterberry holly growing along the Schulkill Trail near 30th Street Station.
Fifth: ‘Winter Red’ winterberry holly.
Sixth: ‘Golden Verboom’ winterberry holly. Seventh: Winterberry at the gates of local residence.
Eighth: ‘Winter Gold’ winterberry holly. Bottom Photo: Winterberry holly flowering.
See the entire gallery of images for this month’s article at our Tree of the Month page! Visit our History at Home page for more information.
Chestnut Hill Conservancy is regularly highlighting special trees in our community, both large and small, as well as common and obscure. In doing so, we hope to promote an appreciation of our arbor legacy and foster a culture of stewardship and renewal of this invaluable resource.
December – Holiday Decorating with Nature
by Emilie Lapham, Conservancy Board Member, avid gardener, botanical artist, and active participant in several noted local and national garden organizations.
Holiday Decorating with Nature
Decorating the house in December can be very festive. Our family, like many has boxes of decorations that are old favorites, but each year I like to create something new. The opportunity to explore a new idea and try to use materials from the local landscape is the challenge.
A classic, but lovely decoration is a pomander. They are made with citrus fruit and studded with cloves. Oranges, lemons and limes are good for pomanders.
Pomanders were very popular in the middle ages as some thought wearing a
pomander would protect from the plague. This is a very easy project, just pierce the fruit with a toothpick before pushing the cloves in.
I surf the internet and find concepts that seem possible and collect material from the garden. The ideas that I find are just a start and they can usually be expanded or adapted in some way. I found some amusing acorn ideas to try this year. They are small and a bit tricky to glue, but fun. Creating an environment for the figures to play in, was a quick stroll in the garden. The moss is borrowed and placed in the garden later. Think in miniature scale when choosing plant material and of course some Wissahickon Schist is a must! A plant saucer works well for a low container.
It is a good idea to line the container with foil or a plastic bag as there will be some moisture. For snow, I used sugar. Candles might be a nice addition, but make sure they are safely placed. A pond? A bridge? There are lots of possibilities…My collection of small metal sheep usually graze on our window sills but for a special occasion they enjoy a custom countryside.
Some very quick and easy ideas: small vases of mixed greens with pods or berries sprayed gold and bronze. Baby’s breath creates a snowy effect. Holly gives a hit of red. Another very easy decoration is filling empty glass balls. Any dry material that fits into the top is possible. Ribbon and cut paper could be interesting and more ambitious, would be a tiny winter landscape.
A seasonal craft night with a few friends is a great way to try some new ideas.
Decorating wine corks could be an interesting idea, especially if the corks are right from the bottle! The cork idea works for all levels of ability.
Some possible supplies for decorating projects: Tacky glue, hot glue, sewing pins, yarn, string, ribbon, nuts in the shell, card board, wire, sticks, pods, dry plant material etc.
Let the natural world inspire creativity in your home and enjoy the season!
All Photos by Emilie Lapham
Top: Lemon & clove pomander. Second: Wine cork creature. Third: Acorn skater. Fourth: Winter acorn athletes. Fifth: Sheepsscape for the table. Sixth: Frosty oak on a table.
Seventh: Mixed greens with poppy pods. Eighth: Poppy pods in a terracotta pot. Bottom: Milkweed seeds in a glass ball.
See the entire gallery of images for this month’s article at our A Gardener’s World page! Visit our History at Home page for more information.
Were you forwarded this email?
Sign up to get Conservancy updates sent to your inbox!
Thank You!
Sponsors and supporters are community champions. Join your neighbors!
Always feel free to contact us with any questions about the Conservancy, our programs and events, or your membership at
Chestnut Hill Conservancy | 8708 Germantown AvenuePhiladelphia, PA 19118