Weed Warrior: Some tastier alternatives to the invader- English Holly

English Holly, an invasive shrub with poisonous red berries, is on the loose in the southwest corner of B.C., spread by birds dropping berry seeds everywhere, and it is out-competing native vegetation in both deciduous and conifer forests.

Let’s not invite English Holly into our region.

Instead, the Invasive Species council of B.C. Grow-me-Instead booklet, available at: https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/0e63db_145ac626193a4bae8bb9a17d37867583.pdf recommends some non-invasive alternatives.

Holly-leafed Osmanthus, with its five-coloured variegated leaves, is a shrub that greatplantpicks.org says will really brighten up shady corners of your garden.

Oregon grape has shrub or Mahonia groundcover varieties that thespruce.com recommends for pollinator gardens- where Oregon Grape will help attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.

The berries can be collected for jams, jellies or preserves. The website also says it can clone itself and spread.

So, if you have strict boundaries, Oregon grape may not be for you.

Crabapples are a favourite at our place, for both May pollinators and Fall and Winter fruit harvesters.

At New Year’s, flocks of Bohemian Waxwings gather in our front yard to enjoy the fermented fruit that our pink-flowered Ornamental Crabapple produces.

Having access to a juicer, in September, we can process the golf ball sized fruit from our white-flowered Crabapple tree and party along with the birds.

Someone we know, who has creative mixology talents, treats us to taste-bud tingling refreshments, on occasion.

The website www.cbc.ca https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/5-things-to-do-with-crabapples-1.1859353 describes five other ways you can enhance your home food supply with jellies, bread pudding, pickles, pectin and Tarte Tatin, made using crabapples.

According to gardenerspath.com, Elderberry shrubs are another fruit-bearing garden favourite, attracting butterflies and bees in the spring and migrating birds in the fall.

If you want pungent bitter tasting Elderberries, containing lots of seeds, gardenerspath.com suggests European Red or Lemon Lace varieties that produce red fruit. Otherwise, they recommend Adams, Black Beauty, Black Lace, Blue or high-yield York Elderberry bushes that all have tastier black fruit.

The website also says if you plant more than one of the Elderberry varieties, cross-pollination leads to greater berry production. If you and or your spouse like to wine a lot, check this out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KjSZxaYVuw4

If you must have a Holly bush, the website www.gardeningknowhow.com describes Meserve Holly. a hybrid that offers non-invasive shrub varieties, like Blue Angel, Blue Boy, Blue Girl and cold-hardier Blue Prince and Blue Princess.

If you are intrigued by the Grow-me-Insteads in this article, check out the websites above, and your favourite garden center for more information on how best to enhance your garden while protecting nature.

Weed Warrior Frank

Above: English Holly. Below: Meserve Holly, Elderberry, Holly-leafed Osmanthus.

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