the Landscape with Hollies
hollies in December and most people think of the spiny evergreen
that is used to deck the halls for the holidays. When it comes
to the landscape, the diversity within the holly (Ilex)
genus is neverending. These sturdy beauties can be evergreen or
deciduous, small and spineless, or large and spiny. They are available
in numerous shapes such as columnar, pyramidal and rounded. Homeowners
use these plants for screens, hedges, mass plantings and specimen
Hollies are dioecious, meaning males produce pollen and females
produce berries. Good fruit production can normally be expected
if the male and female grow within 30 feet of one another. The
resulting berries can be red, orange, yellow or black, depending
on species. Hollies fall within the easy-to-care-for category.
They prefer well-drained soil with full sun and slightly acidic
soil, with the pH between 5.0 and 6.0. To maintain healthy plants,
fertilize and mulch. Common insect pests of hollies include leaf
miner, scale and red mites. Some of the Japanese cultivars can
be very susceptible to root rot diseases.
One of my favorite evergreen hollies is Ilex crenata 'Helleri.'
This Japanese holly survives well in many environments and makes
a nice foundation plant, although it is susceptible to root rot.
Another attractive choice is Ilex cornuta 'Carissa.' This
Chinese holly has one single spine which makes for an interesting
form. It is not as hardy as other varieties and seldom fruits.
I also like the blue boy and blue girl combination, Ilex x
meserveae, known as blue holly.
A good deciduous holly is the Ilex decidua, possumhaw holly,
which has beautiful winter color and grows to a small tree. Many
cultivars are available. Another great deciduous holly is the
common winterberry, Ilex verticillata.
The true hollies are a strong suit for the JC
Raulston Arboretum. It would take some serious time
to study the entire collection but you would certainly walk away
with great ideas for your home landscape. Many specimens are mature
and robust, exhibiting all the beauty the genus is renown for
All photos by Robert E. Lyons