Hidden

Not really hidden, the diminutive blooms of the Possumhaw Holly, Ilex decidua, must be looked for, found out, and paid attention to.  Tiny buds come first,

…before life-giving flowers open to a remarkable variety of insects.

There were few insects when I took this shot, as it’s been gloppy and drippy around here, but they’ll show up:  fluttering, crawling, consuming.

The blooms are not unseen for them.

I’m glad to join in today with Anna’s Flutter and Hum and her wonderful Wednesday Vignette.  Please pop over for garden, nature, and other musings.

 

The Green of Spring

Spring is springing here in Austin, Texas–and how!  After a mild winter, punctuated by a few days and nights of low 20sF/-6 to -16C, fresh greens are poking out and peeking through, heralding a new year of plant growth and garden possibilities.  It’s only the beginning of the Central Texas season of verdancy, but notable for its altering of the tawny and gray palette that is the Texas winter landscape.

Possumhaw hollyIlex decidua, is flushing out new yellow-green foliage growth.

Buds of the tiny white flowers are developing at the base of the leaves.

Bark of this attractive small tree serves as elegant white scaffolding in an emerging sea of green, popped here and there by luscious red berries which haven’t yet been gobbled up by various wild critters.

 

The Possumhaw’s  garden neighbor, an Almond verbena,  Aloysia virgata, was an impulse buy for me some years ago and one I don’t regret.  No berries on this small tree, but after each rainfall during the growing season, fragrant white blooms materialize and are friends to the pollinators.  For now, its foliage blushes new, transforming to solid green when ready.

 

Another small native tree with multicolored foliage is my Texas smoke treeCotinus obovatus.  

This one is a couple of years old and growing well, with foliage color year-round and sprigs of blossoms coming soon.

 

The Goldenball leadtree, Leucaena retusa, has sprouted its new greens against the clear blue sky.

Additionally, its koosh-like blooms will be ready for interested pollinators in the next month.

Budding blooms keep new foliage company.

Not as tall as the aforementioned wildlife-friendly trees is the shrub White mistflower, Ageratina havanensis, a semi-evergreen, sometime spring, and always fall bloomer, whose blooms are beloved by butterflies and bees alike.

Some leaves remained on my shrub after our hard freezes, but fresh foliage is quickly appearing to fill in the bare-limbed gaps.

 

Closer to the ground are the evergreen serrated leaves of the wildflower Golden groundsel,  Packera obovata.

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The oval leaves lend year-round groundcover beauty, but the lance-like and dramatically serrated leaves announce the pedicels that host cheery yellow blooms which will mature in the next month or so.

 

Turk’s capMalvaviscus arboreus,  is awakening from its winter slumber, as well. It’s hard to imagine that this plant’s stems will grow to 5 or 6 feet by May.

This set of Turk’s cap leaves share space with a Giant spiderwort (Tradescantia gigantea).

A close-up shot shows a slight fuzz, which is part (only part!) of the reason that Turk’s cap is such a water-wise perennial.

 

I’m awaiting the vibrant blooms of the Red poppy, a reseeding annual, world-wide garden favorite and welcomed spring flower.  Its foliage is beautiful,

…a gray-green, ruffly wonder in the unfolding spring garden, and in this case,  hosting a green stink bug.  Do you see it?

Whatever foliage you grow–bugs, or not–please check out Christina’s lovely Creating my own garden of the Hesperides Garden Bloggers’ Foliage Day.  See interesting foliage from many gardens and many places, and then share your own leafy loveliness.

Additionally, many thanks to howtostartagarden.org for honoring ‘mygardenersays’ with a ‘Top Southwest Garden Blogs’ recognition.  I’m honored and humbled.

 

Possumhaw Holly (Ilex decidua): A Seasonal Look

When January and February roll around and if a significant freeze has occurred, this is something gorgeous to see in Central Texas, as well as many other places.IMGP5115.new

Waxen limbs decorated with luscious, red berries, this is the winter iteration of Possumhaw Holly, also known as Winterberry and Deciduous Holly.

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Its scientific name, Ilex decidua  says it all: decidua comes from the Latin meaning decidere, to fall off.  Trees which retain leaves, like the Yaupon Holly, Ilex vomitoria,  in the background, are evergreen.

IMGP5250.newTrees which lose leaves in winter are deciduous, like the Possumhaw in the foreground. A Seasonal Look focuses on this deciduous, berrying tree, valuable for wildlife and desirable for gardeners and homeowners.

My experience with Possumhaw Holly rests primarily with the one growing in my back garden which is about 13 years old.

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Possumhaw grows in a wide range of the continental United States–from the Southern states upwards into Illinois, in parts of Florida and Texas. Possumhaw is common throughout Central Texas and into West Texas, but my father has one in Corpus Christi, Texas (along the Gulf of Mexico coast) which is beautiful with masses of berries in winter. It is in winter that most people turn their heads at this stunning, understory tree, but it’s an excellent tree year-round to include in the home or commercial garden.

The berries are red  in the deep of winter,IMGP5260.new

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…and are sometimes stripped very quickly after ripening by the various birds which find them yummy, like Mockingbirds, Blue Jays, and Cedar Waxwings, and also by the small mammals, such as squirrels, which enjoy the tasty fruit.  Some years though, the berries remain on the limbs even as new spring leaves emerge.

P1020846.new The bark is pale and relatively smooth,

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…complementing the colorful berries in winter and the bright green of new leaves in spring.  Usually it’s in March (in Austin) that the tree begins leafing out. In more northern latitudes, that spring leaf flush occurs later.  In mild years, not all of the previous season’s leaves will have dropped completely, so there are occasions where last season’s leaves and some berries adorn the tree alongside new foliage.

The leaves are vibrant green, obovate, and slightly scalloped.

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Once new leaves are fully out, tiny white flowers appear and are not particularly noticeable by people but are favored by bees and other pollinators.  The flowers don’t last long, but instead develop into teensy green berries,P1030049.new

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….and then those berries grow.  One caution, though: the Possumhaw is dioecious, meaning that the trees are either girl trees or boy trees.  It’s the girl trees you want–they produce those fab berries.  Additionally, I’ve read that it’s beneficial for Possumhaw to grow near to other berrying plants for cross-pollination to occur.  My neighbor grows another Texas native, the Yaupon Holly, Ilex vomitoria, within spitting distance from my Possumhaw.I like the combination of the two Ilex species, hanging out together in the back of my garden.

IMGP5272.newOther common garden berrying plants, like Burford Holly, Ilex cornuta, also serve as pollination partners.

Possumhaw is a tough customer that handles heat and drought conditions during summer, always looking fresh and verdant. According to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, it has “moderate” water needs–it is a plant that is often found in river bottoms, after all. Mine gets a little water by soaker hose, once or twice per month in summer–but that’s it. Mine also grows in decent soil and I’m a mulcher, but Possumhaw is found in a large variety of soil types, so it’s versatile and thrives in a variety of situations.

I’ve allowed my Possumhaw to develop multiple trunks,

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…and I don’t prune often, unless a branch is broken or in the way of something else. (Ahem, fence.)   However, Possumhaw responds well to pruning and is attractive as either a multi-trunked or single trunked tree–it truly is a matter of aesthetics how you’d want your Possumhaw to look, more formal with pruning or less formal, without.

In the late summer, the berries begin blushing,

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…and the blush deepens with passing of the autumn months. One day, the glorious red arrives.

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During autumn, the leaves tend to develop into a more yellow shade of green, sometimes actually turning yellow. Once a hard freeze occurs and the leaves fall, it’s all about the berries!

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Such beauty in a rather dull time of year.  Possumhaw is a worthwhile little tree for many in the United States to grow–plant one today, for spring,

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…summer,

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….autumn,

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… and winter.

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You will love this addition to your garden and so will the wildlife in your gardens who rely on this nurturing tree.

Additional information:   https://mygardenersays.com/2015/02/16/possumhaw-addendum