Who in California needs holly? We Californians are fortunate to have a beautiful native shrub that resembles holly but outshines it. Like holly, toyon (Heteromelesarbutifolia) is evergreen and has bright red berries in winter, but it is easygoing, hearty and well adapted to our lower elevations
Toyon occurs extensively in the chaparral and woodlands surrounding the Central Valley and in other foothill regions of the state below 4,000 feet. In fact, its resemblance to European holly and its abundance in Southern California explain the origins of the name Hollywood.
Toyon got its name from the Ohlone tribe. It is also called Christmas berry or California holly. A member of the rose family, toyon typically grows 8 to 15 feet in height and width. However, some specimens grow larger and work in the landscape as small trees.
The plant has dark green, leathery, oblong leaves that are two to four inches long. In spring, the shrub is covered in flat-topped clusters of fragrant white flowers that attract bees and butterflies. As the season progresses, the flowers give way to dense clusters of small, orange-red berries that last late into the year.
These berries attract many local birds: American robins, quail, towhees, cedar waxwings, mockingbirds and various finches and sparrows. So in addition to its beauty, toyon is an excellent habitat plant. The berries also make the plant useful for home décor at Christmas, if you can get to the berries before the birds do.
Like many of its cousins in the rose family, toyon is susceptible to fireblight. The cultivar ‘Davis Gold,' developed at the University of California at Davis, has striking yellow berries and improved disease resistance. Toyon tends to be ignored by deer, although desperate deer may eat the new leaves of smaller plants.
This hearty California native tolerates serpentine, adobe and sandy soils. Unlike some other members of the rose family, toyon requires little pruning to make a great screen or help with erosion control.
For best results, don't try to contain it in a pot. Plant it in full soon and give it room to grow. Although it can take some light shade, it will be fuller and more compact in direct sun. Water deeply and infrequently the first few years to encourage deep tap roots, then sit back and enjoy all its berry beauty-ness. If you like to bird watch, be sure to plant it where you can watch the birds gorge on the winter berries.
So if Hollywood was named after the Christmas berry, could it be that the “vine” of the famous intersection Hollywood & Vine was named after another California native,Vitiscalifornica(California grape)?Heteromeles&Vitis.Toyon& Grape. Neither pair rolls off the tongue quite as nicely as Hollywood & Vine.
Workshop: U. C. Master Gardeners of Napa County will host a workshop on “Rose Pruning and Maintenance” on Saturday, January 9, from 10 a.m. to noon, at the University of California Cooperative Extension office, 1710 Soscol Avenue, Napa. This workshop will feature demonstrations of proper pruning techniques. Master Gardeners will discuss types of roses, common rose diseases and routine maintenance. On-line registration (credit card only); Mail-in registration (check only).
Workshop: U. C. Master Gardeners of Napa County will host a workshop on “Fruit Tree Pruning and Care” on Saturday, January 16, from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. The workshop includes a lecture session from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the University of California Cooperative Extension office, 1710 Soscol Avenue, Napa. With hands-on session at a local orchard, rain or shine,from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. Please dress for outside weather conditions.On-line registration (credit card only); Mail-in/Walk-in registration (cash or check only).
Master Gardeners are volunteers who help the University of California reach the gardening public with home gardening information. U. C. Master Gardeners of Napa County ( http://ucanr.org/ucmgnapa/) are available to answer gardening questions in person or by phone, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 9 a.m. to Noon, at the U. C. Cooperative Extension office, 1710 Soscol Avenue, Suite 4, Napa, 707-253-4143, or from outside City of Napa toll-free at 877-279-3065. Or e-mail your garden questions by following the guidelines on our web site. Click on Napa, then on Have Garden Questions? Find us on Facebook under UC Master Gardeners of Napa County.