Green Holly (Ilex aquifolium) is familiar to everybody and risks being taken for granted. Which would be a mistake - it is a special plant - holder of an RHS award of Garden Merit - and here's why. Holly will grow into a beautifully shaped medium sized tree if left to its own devices, but it makes a dense and glossy hedge all year round. And a holly hedge is a really special thing. It makes the best possible wind break; something to do with leaf shape. It is also one of the most responsive plants for clipping into almost any shape. Add the fact that it is stockproof and can provide a lifetime's supply of Christmas wreaths and berries and everyone should have some in their garden in one form or another. Ilex aquifolium is also easy going, settling in well on all soils from acid to alkaline, sandy dry to claggy clay. Holly will thrive in shade, on the coast, or even next to the pollution of a busy road and once established is immune to long, hot, drought-ridden summers. Simply one of the best all-round hedge plants we grow and sell.
How to grow holly
Start small. Ilex aquifolium and its varieties such as Variegated Silver Holly and the all female holly Ilex aquifolium Alaska (guaranteed to berry) will grow away much more strongly if started off young. The amazing textural effect it achieves can be contrasted with yew or laurel to create a tapestry hedge and then you have the added bonus in the winter of bright red berries. As with all evergreen hedges it is the perfect backdrop for a mixed and colourful herbaceous border - try to include some bright winter reds to tie in with the berries - Skimmia rubella, Cornus sibirica or Cornus alba spaethii would all be obvious choices. Hollies also lend themselves to having their lower trunk stripped of branches so that you end up with a lollipop; an avenue of these look stunning. Especially so if you use a variegated variety. The only caveat when you have planted young holly is to protect them from rabbits which love the young bark and from the effects of cold and drying winds - at whatever season they may occur.
- Size: 15 m as a tree
- Soil: Any
- Use: prickly hedging/topiary
- Single Row: 3 per metre
- Colour: dark green and shiny
- Feature: red berries on female plants
- RHS AGM
Holly wood is prized by fine furniture makers who use the pure white wood for inlay work. The bits of holly that you cannot use for furniture burn make good firewood. Mature holly bushes and trees are a popular habitat for many birds and insects, especially robins, thrushes and blackbirds who have a built in berry canteen. And while nothing is immune to honey fungus, holly is on RHS list of resistant plants.