last updated 26/10/2014

Ilex - classic hollies

We are now really understanding the problems of developing new beds in large open areas, and are looking to hollies to generate an evergreen framework to aid the establishment of young plants and create something to look at in the winter. Iím sure these classic plants need no introduction, but I will remind you that in most cases, male and female plants are needed to maximise berrying. However, they need not be side-by-side. It would be difficult to find as accommodating a plant - what else will grow without grumbling in dry shade beneath other trees?

As so often happens, a passing interest deepens to become an obsession...we're now up to over 50 different hollies (I had no idea there was such diversity.) Inevitably these will become available as we start to propagate them for our own use and I have some this space!

Note: we have a number of older (ie larger and bushier) plants growing on in the open ground which can be lifted in the autumn. Another advantage of these is that having been growing slowly outside all summer, they don't have the vulnerable late season soft growth that can be a problem on container grown stock.

ILEX x altaclerensis 'Belgica Aurea' (f)
I always knew this vigorous, erect plant as 'Silver Sentinel' but we have followed Plantfinder's nomenclature. The sparsely spined leaves are deep green, mottled with pale green and grey whilst being conspicuously margined creamy white. Female, so red berries add to the attraction.

ILEX x altaclerensis 'Lawsoniana' (f)
This bright and cheerful selection has large, generally spineless leaves which are dramatically splashed yellow in the centre.

ILEX aquifolium
Our native holly is perfect for so many uses; whether hedging, windbreak or screening. Introduce it into the woodland to give valuable winter shelter to more delicate treasures. Tolerant of even dry shade.

ILEX aquifolium 'Alaska' (f)
This recently selected female holly is reputedly the hardiest of all (though whether it would survive in deepest Alaska is a moot point!) It is also more compact (which undoubtedly contributes towards its hardiness) with typically shaped glossy green leaves. Female. so bright red berries are borne in abundance.

NEW ILEX aquifolium 'Amber' (f)

NEW ILEX aquifolium 'Argentea Marginata' (f)

ILEX aquifolium 'Aurifodina' (f) (synonym 'Muricata')
We've had a plant growing in the windbreak at the top of the nursery for years. I've always liked it, but somehow never gotten around to propagating it. Now with the need for evergreens concentrating my mind, we've done a batch, and very nice they are too. It's distinctive by comparison with the other generally gold-margined cultivars in that the margin is more yellow and less cream. There are almost tones of orange in there, quite different to the norm. The leaf structure is also different, being much flatter than most forms. Difficult to describe yet so distinclty different when you see it. I like it very much.

ILEX aquifolium 'Elegantissima' (m)
'Elegantissima' is a male holly, so doesn't berry. Instead it's grown for its foliage...and what gorgeous foliage it is! Dating back to the mid 19th century it just goes to show that newer is not always better. The slightly smaller than typical leaves are dramatically edged with cream, whilst the youngest growth is kissed with pink. Perfect for cutting for arrangements or for topiary.

NEW ILEX aquifolium 'Ferox' (m)
The "hedgehog hollies" are such fun! As well as the usual spines around the edge of the leaf, there is an additional row along the midrib. Not everyone likes variegation, and it's not right for every application, so it's great to be able to have a few of this unusual form available. Male.

NEW ILEX aquifolium 'Ferox Argentea' (m)
A compact, bushy plant, this form has creamy-white margined leaves which contrast beautifully with the purple stems. Male.

NEW ILEX aquifolium 'Ferox Aurea' (m)
This variant of the "hedgehog holly" has a central golden splash to each deep green spiky leaf. Male.

NEW ILEX aquifolium 'Gold Flash' (f)

NEW ILEX aquifolium 'Golden Milkboy' (m)

NEW ILEX aquifolium 'Golden Tears' (f)

NEW ILEX aquifolium 'Golden van Tol' (m/f)

NEW ILEX aquifolium 'Ingramii'

ILEX aquifolium 'Handsworth New Silver' (f)
The creamy white margin defines the longer than average leaf, which contrast well with the purple stems. Female and free fruiting.

ILEX aquifolium 'J.C van Tol' (m/f)
As a mature plant the habit of this is wonderful. Tall and relatively narrow, but distinctly pyramidal with gently drooping branches, the rich green leaves provide a dramatic foil for other plants. It is self fertile so the red berries are reliably produced in great profusion with or without a nearby pollinator. 

NEW ILEX aquifolium 'Lichenthalii' (f)

NEW ILEX aquifolium 'Madame Briot' (f)
Purple stems contrast with dark green leaves which are conspicuously mottled and margined with dark yellow. Female.

NEW ILEX aquifolium 'Montrosa' (m)

NEW ILEX aquifolium 'Myrtifolia' (m)

ILEX aquifolium 'Myrtifolia Aurea Maculata' (m)
This has long been one of my favourite hollies. Another older cultivar from the 19th century; this one makes a small shrub of pyramidal habit. The leaves show wonderful contrast, being bright gold in the centre within a broad margin of rich deep green. Such a versatile little chap; try it in the border, in a container for year round colour in a difficult corner, for a low hedge perhaps or even for more delicate topiary. Male.

NEW ILEX aquifolium 'Pyramidalis' (f)

NEW ILEX aquifolium 'Recurva' (m)

NEW ILEX aquifolium 'Rubricaulis Aurea' (f)

NEW ILEX aquifolium 'Scotica' (f)

NEW ILEX aquifolium 'Siberia' (f)

NEW ILEX aquifolium 'Silver Lining' (f)

ILEX aquifolium 'Silver van Tol' (m/f)
The original green 'J.C van Tol' is such a brilliant plant that this sport from it can't fail to be a winner! The typical glossy green leaves have lovely clear cream margins, set against purplish stems. Happily it is also self-fertile and fruits well all by itself. (I've got the gold variegated version too, but he's not in production yet...)

ILEX aquifolium 'Somerset Cream' (f)
A delightful selection as well as being geographically appropriate for us! The foliage is boldly variegated with shades of cream and yellow; splendid with a prolific crop of red berries. I can't understand why this splendid plant is not more widely available. Lucky us I guess! Female.

NEW ILEX aquifolium 'Victoria' (m)

NEW ILEX aquifolium 'Zig Zag' (f)

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