Winter in a Florida garden: A feast of colors and berries for birds

Winter in a Florida garden: A feast of colors and berries for birds

Researchers estimate that most humans can see about a million different colors. In a state known for its consistent sunshine and mild winter temperatures, Florida conservatories provide a visual delight for outdoor living and a feast for birds.

Sir Isaac Newton influenced our understanding of color when he discovered that white light combines all the colors of the visible spectrum. Sunlight consists of the visible colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. This magical combination of colors is known as white light. When white light falls on a white object, it appears white to the human eye. A red object absorbs all other colors of sunlight and reflects only red.

Shades of red are the traditional colors used in winter decorating and poinsettias and amaryllis are the most popular. Although it is not native to Florida, the traditional bright red poinsettia can easily thrive in a Florida garden. Researchers from the University of Florida began experimenting with poinsettia plants in 1996 as part of an annual poinsettia diversity trial. The variety of colors and textures resulting from these experiments are not always found at your large retailer, and when plants are offered for sale, it helps to further research by horticulture students.

Dahon Holly

The Pioneer Garden Club of Ocala sells traditional red poinsettias to raise funds for the annual scholarships awarded to the College of Central Florida through the Marge Hendon Scholarship Fund. This also supports local students interested in further studies in the field of horticulture and environmental science.


Amaryllis are a popular holiday gift that continues to make in the garden year after year. The Victorians attributed strength and determination to the plant because of its height and sturdiness. The plant is a living symbol of love. Perfect gift for those you love and care about. Amaryllis do best in a Florida garden if planted in a location with well-drained soil and partial sun. The trumpet-shaped flowers can be found in a variety of red, orange, pink and white colors. Striped and multi-colored are available but are not common. The normal flowering time for amaryllis is between December and March.

Birds see four colors: ultraviolet, blue, green, and red. The majority of birds avoid white. The Florida landscape around Marion County provides a large number of berries for birds during the winter. The blue-colored berries of eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) are a favorite winter food for birds, especially cedar waxwings, bluebirds, and turkeys.

People flock to Florida in similar patterns to the birds. Florida’s population growth, according to the 2020 Census, is mostly due to immigration from other states in recent years.


Florida Hollies say they are welcome to our state because of their wide range as natives throughout the United States and the world. American holly (Ilex opaca) is native to the eastern and south-central United States, from coastal Massachusetts south to central Florida and west to southeastern Missouri and eastern Texas. Native to Florida, holly plants, like all holly plants, are generally dioecious, with male and female flowers from separate trees and can be grown in a wide range of light and soil conditions. The foliage can be used for indoor arrangements and the bright red berries attract resident and migratory wintering birds. Florida boasts four evergreen natives with red berries: the American, Yaupon Holly (Ilex vomitoria) the source of the wonderful caffeinated yaupon tea, the Dahon Holly (Ilex Casino) and a hybrid of American and Dahon called ‘East Palatka’ (Ilex). attenuator) which was discovered growing in the East Palatka, Florida wilderness in 1927.

Ripening native Florida persimmons (Diospyros virginiana) during fall and early winter bring orange color to the garden and attract wildlife. The plum-sized fruit is sweet and slightly tangy and is enjoyed by children and small animals. The cultural importance, gorgeous burnt orange or brick-red fall foliage, and food source for wildlife make it an excellent addition to any garden.

Sources: University of Florida/IFAS, Florida Native Plant Society, National Audubon Society and Pioneer Garden Club members; With additions by Deborah Carey.

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