Home Grown

Tips and resources for farmers and gardeners

Brighten Winter With Holly

How can we brighten up a bleak winter landscape?

One way is by incorporating evergreen and semi-evergreen shrubs into landscape plantings.

For centuries Europeans have been using hollies to dress up their winter landscapes, indoors and out. To brighten up your surroundings, consider these holly and holly-look-a-likes in your landscaping plans for the coming year.

Hybrid Holly -- (Ilex x meserveae) The most commonly grown holly in America's Midwest. It has spiny, lustrous leaves that are a deep beautiful green. Hollies require both male and female plants for production of the coveted red berries. A reputable nursery should be able to assist with choosing compatible male and female cultivars. Desiccation in winter winds and sun scald in the summer can be a problem so hollies need a protected location. North and easterly exposures work particularly well for growing hollies in our climate. Many hybrids are available, some faring better in winter than others, so pick one that is appropriate for where you live.

American Holly -- (Ilex opaca) This is a holly for the plant collector that wants a challenge.

It needs moist acidic soils and protection from excessive winds.

The form is distinctly pyramidal and approaches 30 feet tall in its native region of the southeastern US. Zone 5.

Oregon grapeholly -- (Mahonia aquifolium) Leaves are similar to Ilex in the sense that they are a spiny, lustrous dark green; however, Oregon grapeholly has compound leaves and gets a lovely purple hue in winter. This shrub has a rather expressive form, sometimes squat and dense and other times more irregular and open. In spring it is adorned with bright yellow flowers followed by persistent dark-blue berries in the autumn. Growing 3 feet high and wide, it is perfect for smaller more protected locations. Give it some shade. Native to the northwestern region of the United States. Zone 5-6.

Creeping mahonia -- (Mahonia repens) Native to Nebraska's Pine Ridge and the Black Hills, this is a Miwdest version of Oregon grapeholly. Similar to its cousin in appearance, with slightly duller leaves, its outstanding fall color surpasses that of Oregon grapeholly. It only grows 10-18 inches high and has a gently creeping habit. Yellow flowers dress it up in the spring and black fruits in late summer. Once it is established it is extremely drought tolerant. Zone 4.

Christina Hoyt, design assistant, Nebraska Statewide Arboretum


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