Berry Surreal Dreams

The sun has gone on vacation.

Alternating pouring rain and light drizzle make going out with the camera a little dangerous, for the camera that is.

Eyelids heavy. Chin down to chest. Regular deep breathing. Dozing off. In a dream state, we go out the front door onto the covered front stoop. The brilliant bejeweled winterberry hollies dazzle dipped in moisture.

The cardinals are going to be nice and plump next March when the berries have ripened to perfection.

This is a gothic technicolor dream.

It seems a surreal spectacle.

But it is no disturbing nightmare.

Moody and mysterious with timeless magic just beneath the surface.

A portal into the ceremony of 3D.

This seems more familiar as we navigate the land of elemental foothills in freefall.

Sputter, fluster, muster. Head shake. We must have been sleep walking with the camera again.


The first groups of photos is of the winterberry hollies growing in front of the main house. Ilex verticillata ‘Sparkleberry’ and I. verticillata ‘Winter Gold’ are in full berry. Their consort, I. verticillata ‘Apollo’ is starkly naked, allowing his harem to shine. There is more information about them on the post from last year that can be seen by clicking here, Sparkleberry And Winter Gold. The out of focus photographer image was snapped by Gail as she was trying out the Canon Powershot SX1 IS. Our royal we-ness snapped the rest with the same camera, while in a lucid dream state.


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39 Responses to Berry Surreal Dreams

  1. Frances, those winterberrys are beautiful. At the flower shop we use a lot of it this time of year, but they are not as full as yours. I had been thinking about purchasing a few for my garden, good to know what variety yours is.

    Hi Deborah, thanks. I have cut branches to bring inside for holiday decorations, but like the flowers, I appreciate them more on the bushes and they will last longer there and feed the birds too. Be sure and get the correct male pollinator for whichever one you choose, it matters. πŸ™‚

  2. Joy says:

    Those winterberry hollies are spectacular Frances .. husband and I have tried many a time with different hollies, pairing them up as they should be and new cultivars that said they didn’t need a mate .. well sad to say nothing seemed to give us the affect we were looking for .. so now I have to enjoy those stunning red berries at other people’s gardens .. Thank you ! LOL
    Joy : )

    Hi Joy, thanks. It has taken several years for this planting to look like this. It was rough going during the drought years for these like more moisture than some hollies. With the rain we have had this year, just wait until next November! πŸ™‚

  3. Les says:

    We have carried Winterberries at work for as long as I have been there, but because of a shot you posted last year of ‘Winter Gold’ mixed with the reds, I got some in this fall. I am sorry to say the Philistines have not been beating down the doors to get at them.

    Hi Les, thanks. I am so glad you got Winter Gold to join the reds. My daughter Semi got a few of them several years ago and this year has a respectable number of berries too. I think the gold ones are just the bees knees. πŸ™‚

  4. Gail says:

    They are gorgeous Frances….Exactly how I wish they would look in my garden~~I’ve even planted three last winter! Two survived, one has a few berries, but I remain hopeful that they grow up to be berry packed beauties like yours! I do have to acidify the soil, since it’s pretty neutral here. Very nicely photographed! gail

    Hi Gail, thanks. It takes years to get this look, but the rainfall we had this year will certainly speed things up. After the first drought year and late frost which zapped the flowers, we had hardly any berries. They are just now getting back to normal. I do prune them for fullness, right after flowering. They flower on last year’s growth. I saw that shot of me looking like I was asleep on the photo card when you were playing with the new camera. This is where it took me. πŸ™‚

  5. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    You do have a marvelous array of berries Frances. No wonder the Waxwings delight in your garden.

    Hi Lisa, thanks. We are trying to add berries all the time here. Several Viburnums have been added but are not of the size to make berries yet. Soon though. I have three that are called Cardinal Candy among the others, and Winterthur to help with the pollination. One of these years maybe we will be showing a mass of Viburnum berries on the blog. As for the waxwings, they delight in the mature American hollies in the neighborhood, thirty foot plus giants loaded with berries are all over. My little offerings are puny compared to those, and the cardinals will pick them clean in one day in March. The mockingbirds sometimes wil get a berry or two as well. It is fun to watch them denude the bushes in front. One day they are loaded, the next day bare. I wish I could get these to grow from cuttings, there would be a mass planting under the pine trees. πŸ™‚

  6. Rose says:

    I’ve always thought your garden looked like a dream, Frances. The winterberries add to its beauty; the cardinals are going to love them!

    Thanks Rose. I knew you would mention the dream state! Talking about those hollies makes me want to try again with cuttings. I am greedy and want even more, for the birds of course. πŸ™‚

  7. The deciduous hollies are awesome! I definitely want them, just don’t have a great spot, yet. I can do more once my greenhouse is complete. They would look great with a muhly grass border!

    Hi Dave, thanks. You need some of these, for sure. I bet you could get cuttings to take too. I am cogitating on that as we speak!!! πŸ™‚

  8. easygardener says:

    The berries are very beautiful but as always it is your Muhly grass that catches my eye. It looks like it is surrounded by a haze of fog.

    Hi EG, thanks for visiting. The muhly has faded substantially but it still adding to the fall garden here, more so than usual in fact. It was a foggy dreamy atmosphere that day, perfect for sleepwalking. πŸ™‚

  9. lotusleaf says:

    Your garden seems to be full of mystery now. Great pictures!

    Thanks Lotusleaf. I love fog and we have not had nearly enough of it for my well being. πŸ™‚

  10. Jenny B says:

    What gorgeous berries! The Pink Muhly grass is amazing too–I have been feeling the need to have this plant in my garden. It does lend a dreamy feel, doesn’t it? You take better pictures asleep than I do awake! πŸ˜‰

    Thanks Jenny. You most definitely need some muhly! This has been its best year ever. I do dream about taking pictures sometimes. HA πŸ™‚

  11. rosey pollen says:

    HI Frances,
    I would love to snag some of these berries for Christmas decor if I had them nearby to me! The berries that I have available are only Kinninik(SP) and they are miniscule compared to these beauties you shared!
    I like your last photo, very unique indeed!

    Hi Rosey, if you lived near here, that would mean you could grow some in your own garden for decorative use. I have picked a few, but immediately was sorry when it lessened the show outside so no longer do that. They last much better in the cool dampness outdoors than in a dry warmer house. Check out Forestfarm to see if there are any hardy in your area. Gail took an interesting photo with my camera, didn’t she? πŸ™‚

  12. Phillip says:

    Frances, I love the Sparkleberry holly. I have two that have never produced berries. I have a small “Apollo” which I’ve been told is the pollinator for it but I suppose it is still too little to make a difference because I’m not seeing any berries this year either.

    Hi Phillip, you have the right male, but it does take a few years to get berries if the plants were small to begin with. My daughter Semi ordered several winter gold and the male and is just now getting berries. She is so happy and they look so good, worth the wait of several years.

  13. Sweet Bay says:

    You have the right idea; sleepwalking in rainy weather is the way to go. πŸ™‚

    Those hollies are gorgeous. The wet and misty conditions really do impart a sense of magic to your photos.

    Thanks Sweet Bay. It was too wet to walk around much, so the zoom was used for some interesting effects. This time of year can produce some misty foggy days, full of mystery and magic. πŸ™‚

  14. Hi Frances, Firstly, your berries are lovely–your whole garden still so fall-y. Even though it has been unseasonably warm here, my garden is definitely prepared for a winter’s nap. And finally, my brain is weird. When first glancing at your title, i read it as “Very Squirrely Dreams.” HA!

    Thanks Monica. The garden is really hanging on with interest, even as the leaves fall and the colors fade. Good weather conditions, it’s true. Squirrely dreams sounds like a nightmare! HA πŸ™‚

  15. Kiki says:

    What a vibrant and fun post! I loved your creative commentary a scene out of a movie! gorgoeus berries..yes those cardinals will be quite content! beautiful photos Frances! And I liked the gothic element..I agree..I feel the same when I see red amaranthus! Wonderfully enchanting post!!

    Hi Kiki, thanks so much. I am glad you can get into the proper mood at this time of year. πŸ™‚

  16. Tyra says:

    Spectacular even in the dark month of November, dramatic and calm on the same time, it is magical dear Frances!

    Thanks Tyra, you are so very kind. We have had some dark days with small patches of occasional sun. It seems right to have brilliant berries to take us into the holidays. πŸ™‚

  17. Janet says:

    Morning Frances, I had to scroll back up and see the Golden berries. The red ones jumped off the screen. I am a big fan of deciduous hollies…Sparkleberry is up at the top! Lovely fall colors, whether they are wet or not. I am looking at a new camera and got to try out the Canon Eos Rebel Xsi last week. BIG learning curve there!

    Hi Janet, thanks. Sparkleberry gets top grades, but I like the mix of gold with the red. There are two more bushes, Berry Heavy that were moved a couple of times and have not berried yet. It can take quite a while for them to get started. How exciting about that Rebel! I am sure you will have it mastered in no time if you decide to get it. I am still working on the SX1 after seven months. Trial and error is the only way for me. πŸ™‚

  18. Willow says:

    I am new to your blog and just love the pictures.

    Hi Willow, thanks and welcome. I am glad you found us and do hope you will return. πŸ™‚

  19. Hello Frances,

    The Winterberry Hollies are so striking with their bright red berries. Can you cut them and put them in vases? That would add nice holiday color I would think. I hope you get some dryer weather soon.

    Thanks Noelle, they really jazz up the winter landscape here. I have cut them before but they soon shrivel up. They are much more long lasting outside, several months, until they soften in March and the birds eat them all in one day. I am not much for indoor bouquets, mainly because my cat eats anything that isn’t artificial! I do fear it will be raining when my family comes here for Thanksgiving. We have some indoor activities planned just in case, but we would all much rather be outside in the gardens.

  20. Catherine says:

    What a nice dream to wake up from! The hollies are so pretty and full of berries, the birds will be very happy! I love seeing long shots of your gardens.

    Thanks, Catherine, it was. I am taking more long shots now, but there will be the occasional macro. The berries are looking so brilliant on these cloudy wet days, a real pick me up. πŸ™‚

  21. lynn says:

    Frances, that’s the most loaded winterberry shrub I’ve ever seen! I bet your house is the mailman’s favorite stop of the day πŸ˜‰ Even on a cloudy yuck of a day, your garden is vibrant!

    Thanks Lynn, it really is full of berries. I do prune the sparkleberries to keep them from growing into the cherry tree above. It might help make them fuller. My mailman, Claude da mailman, is wonderful, he brings me plants, fruits and jellies that he makes himself. I will miss him when he retires, we always chat if I am out front or by the muhly lawn area. It does seem like the berries are even more brilliant on the wet foggy days.

  22. There can never be too many berries…must remember that when the next buying season rolls around. In the meantime, I will enjoy yours.
    I am tagging you for Honest Scrap…your way with words would surely make it an interesting post if you decide to take it on.

    Thanks Ricki. I agree, we need to add more berries too, even though we have been adding more every year. Just waiting for them to mature enough to really make a show. Thanks for thinking of me for the meme. This is a super busy time of year so it will have to wait until things slow down after the holidays. I might need to be reminded then. πŸ™‚

  23. Very nice. No doubt the happy male holly pollinator is sleeping it off some where…his work was done! H.

    HA Helen, good one. This Apollo is a busy fellow come spring. We added a second Apollo a few years back, it is still so tiny I don’t know if he is able to help out quite yet. There are two more red ones, Berry Heavy in the mix that have not grown enough to show off. They are very slow growers and the two previous years drought really set them back. With the rain we have had this year, our fingers are crossed that there will be blooms a’plenty next spring meaning even more berries. We are greedy for berries. πŸ™‚

  24. Why aren’t my dreams like this?

    That’s a difficult question to answer, MMD! Perhaps some warm milk at bedtime? Or biscuits? HA

  25. Kate says:

    Simply breathtaking. Little birdies will be thrilled to discover your winterberries.

    Hi Kate, thanks so much. The birds seem to know the exact date that these berries soften enough for them to eat come March. Amazing how nature works like that. They can pick them clean in a day. Maybe I will be able to get a shot of these bushes covered in birds, usually I notice the berries are all gone after the fact. πŸ™‚

  26. Dan says:

    I took a picture this weekend of a very small flower on a weed in my backyard and I thought of your site. Not that your photos look like weeds, but that this weed is Amazing! It is dwarfed by a tall blade of grass, but the detail is hard to belive. Such a neat flower to have to live so low and probably rarely be appreciated … much like many people … I’ve posted it on my blog.

    Hi Dan, thanks for thinking of us. Your little flower is henbit and quite charming. πŸ™‚

  27. Lzyjo says:

    Frances, the sun is on vacation here too! Sometimes I love the way colors look different when it’s overcast, for instance Sparkleberry is magnificent! Maybe we can start a petition to get the sun back?

    Hi Lzyjo, thanks. I would sign that petition. One of these days…surely we will see that sun again. These darker days do make the berries out front pop, much more so than sunny days when we cannot take a decent shot of them. Still it would be nice to see the sun again. πŸ™‚

  28. Darla says:

    That would be the place to be lost in a dream!

    Thanks Darla. I do a lot of dreaming here, first time someone got a photo of it! πŸ™‚

  29. Gill says:

    its wonderful how much colour you have in your garden in November, even on a dreary day.

    Gill in Canada

    Hi Gill, thanks. We have worked hard and long to try to get some winter color. It is ongoing. πŸ™‚

  30. Lola says:

    Out of this world. What great colors. I adore that red in the berries. Moisture dripping from the berries is something else. I can’t believe what a “dream” of a front you have. And then, not to mention the back garden.
    Just awesome.

    Hi Lola, thanks. The reds really jump out at you, but the gold are my faves. When the berries are showing nicely after the leaves of the hollies have fallen is the prettiest time of year for that part of the garden. πŸ™‚

  31. Berrilicious. The Ilex v.’s here are already half et up from when the robins flew through. I need to check under there for seedlings.

    Thanks Christopher. No birds eat the berries until late winter here. It makes for a nice show through the winter. I am always looking for seedlings but the only ones that pop up under there are from the cherry tree, lots of them.

  32. Teresa says:

    THose winterberry hollies are so pretty. Actually it is all so colorful at your house. WE are in the drab brown phase eventhough it isn’t very cold yet for November or better yet, Thanksgiving. I am not complaining mind you. We just need a bit of snow to cut down our tree and then a bit on Christmas Eve. I better be careful what I wish for. Have a nice Thanksgiving.

    Hi Teresa, thanks. It is getting more drab in the back gardens. Snow does make everything beautiful, we don’t get much here. Hope your Thanksgiving is swell. πŸ™‚

  33. Anna says:

    Beautiful and tasty red jewels for the birds to enjoy Frances.
    I am not familiar with the term winterberry – do you know the Latin name ? I was interested in the camera details as I am hoping to ger a new one soon – another model to look into πŸ™‚

    Hi Anna, thanks. The winterberries we grow are all Ilex verticillata. There are other similar deciduous hollies with nice berries besides these. My new camera, the Canon Powershot SX1 IS took all the photos, using the 20x zoom feature. I am still learning how to use it better. It is a good one, as is its sister SX10. Good luck with a new camera, how fun! πŸ™‚

  34. commonweeder says:

    Your winterberries are beautiful. I ordered a couple of winterberries from our conservation district, but while the hazelnuts and shadblow have thrived, the winterberries punked out pretty quick. Your garden is so beautiful in every season.

    Thanks Pat. I hope by punked out you don’t mean that the hollies died, but just decided to take a nap. They can take a while to get going, several years. The first ones I bought, two Sparkleberrys and one Apollo from a NE TN nursery were nice large specimens and I paid what I thought at the time was top dollar, $25 a piece. They came berried. The Winter Golds came from the nursery at the Biltmore and were smaller pots and were cheaper, but had a few berries on them so I could see the color. It took them a while to get to the point they are now. I kept pruning the sparkles to let the golds catch up. There are also two Berry Heavys, also from Biltmore that have done nothing for several years. Each bush has about two berries on it. They were moved closer to Apollo two years ago, in the same bed. Hoping for a better show next year. Too much information? HA

  35. I would really like to know what that grass with the pinkish haze about it is called. I thought that was called drop seed grass, but I think I am wrong. And I have been looking for it…
    GartenGrl at Planning Plants to Plant

    Muhlenbergia capillaris, or muhly grass.

  36. Hi Frances

    Berries, rosehips, crabapples, I’ve only in recent years appreciated how beautiful these things are, they are all reasons to embrace Autumn!

    Hi Rob, thanks for stopping by. You are so right about the berries, plus the wildlife love them as well. I would love one of the yellow crabapples, yellow berries are my favorite. πŸ™‚

  37. Patsi says:

    Everything looks so peaceful…ah ,the fall colors are my favorite.
    Meant to tell you before…nice street out front of your home, the lack of neighbor’s houses is ideal.

    Hi Patsi, thanks. Our neighor Mickey owns five lots and we own two back here. It is a small little neighborhood, one of the reasons we bought this property. πŸ™‚

  38. Jim Groble says:

    just simply wonderful

    Thanks Jim, and welcome. Glad you enjoyed your visit. πŸ™‚

  39. Good night Frances, you have a paradise just outside the house. I wonder what IΒ΄m going to do when my roses fade and seeing your pictures I understand that there is so much beauty out there in every season. Thank you.
    Muchos cariΓ±os
    MarΓ­a Cecilia

    Hi Maria, thanks so much. You have your own paradise in Chile, so very beautiful and majestic. Sometimes we have to look past the flowers, beauty is everywhere. πŸ™‚

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