fine example of golden margin English holly (Ilex
aquifolium 'Aureo Marginata')
I love hollies and don't even pretend to understand those
who don't. It is impossible not to admire such a perfect plant.
Holly has all the attributes a gardener can ask for. It is
attractive year round with its handsome glossy and often spiny
foliage, its tiny but prolific (typically) white flowers and
of course its most striking feature, brilliant berries.
Of the more than 400 species, all of which belong to the Aquifoliaceae
family, the majority are evergreen, with only a few deciduous
species. Hollies grow in a variety of climates worldwide.
Most are easy and adaptable growers that are drought resistant
and salt and shade tolerant. The exception is variegated cultivars,
which usually need more sunlight. Moreover, hollies are relatively
disease-resistant, with the exception of fungal leaf and twig
blight. Avoid these by having an open planting site with adequate
spacing between plants to allow for air flow. Pests, such
as leaf miners, scales and bud moths, are rarely a serious
problem. Hollies have a tendency to become overgrown, but
they respond well to pruning. The best time to do this is
in late winter or early spring before new growth appears.
Hollies accept any planting medium, from heavy loam to sandy
soils, as long as it has good drainage and is acidic. You
can increase the acidity of your soil by adding some peat
moss to the planting hole. Application of acidic mulches such
as pine bark or pine needles may be beneficial, although their
influence on soil acidity is debatable. I fertilize all young
and newly planted hollies twice a year for several growing
seasons until they are well established. Nitrogen-rich fertilizer
for acid-loving plants, for example 21-7-7, is a good choice.
Hollies will adapt to the more acidic soil required by rhododendrons
and azaleas, thereby making them good companion plants.
All hollies, including trees, shrubs and climbers, are woody
plants with smooth bark and simple, alternate leaves. Not
all hollies have spiny foliage, nor do all of them have shiny
leaves. Those with glossy foliage have a wax layer that covers
the leaf's thick cuticle, insulating and protecting the interior
tissues. All hollies are dioecious, meaning female plants
need a male plant in order to bear fruit. Fortunately, one
male specimen can pollinate many nearby females.