Nature’s calendar doesn’t always agree with ours, but all around San Diego this December one could see bushes with holly-like leaves festooned with bright red berries. It’s the native toyon plant, sometimes called California holly. If you have a toyon in your yard, cut a few branches for dec-orations around the house or outside your windows. Toyon is part of our local Coastal Sage Scrub plant community. It is a very versatile small tree that can grow throughout the county. It can also be espaliered along a wall or sheared into a hedge, if that is your style. Many species of birds are attracted to the berries. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a few volunteer sprouts popping up around the yard from time-to-time. If they’re not growing in the best place, dig up the seedlings with plenty of soil and replant at least 3-5 feet away from any wall or building.
Early settlers in Los Angeles looked up at the toyon-covered hills and dubbed the area “Hollywood.” It was much later that it also became known as “Tinseltown,” another name that might evoke images of the holiday season.