April 17, 2012

Well Hello Holly

not mine
I told you about Ilex opaca, our native American holly, back in December.   You can read about it here, and see the absolutely stunning specimen I photographed at Connecticut College Arboretum.

I told you then that I wanted one in my garden.

I spent all winter thinking about it.  I discussed it with other bloggers and with my garden bookgroup.  I looked at specimens in gardens, at the park and at landscape companies.  I mulled it over.

In early April I bought one large enough that I could not move or plant it myself, so I had to have a landscaper put it in.  It went in the spot vacated by the demise of the Bradford pear tree that broke apart in last year's heavy snowstorm.

Here she is.  Hello, Holly. 

It's a female.  As you know, hollies have male and female flowers on separate plants and only the females produce the Christmasy red berries.
mine
There is a lot I like about the tree I bought.

It has a strong central leader, a nice shape and it was field grown, so it came with a huge root system.  Field grown means there was no constricting container or wire cage, it simply grew in the soil, and was dug up to move it and plant it.

It is taller than I am, about 7 feet high, and it took three men to plant it.  I'm not going to take a picture of me standing next to it for your reference, so imagine.

It was grown in the next town over --- not only native, but local, and winter-tested in our climate.  It has healthy leaves.

There are some things I do not like about the tree I bought. 

It grew in a field next to some pine trees, so the back side was shaded and is sparse.  In her new home in full sun, this holly should fill out in back with age.  (Like we all do.  Fill out in back with age.)


Also, I wanted a tree branched to the ground like the arboretum specimen in the photo at the top of this post, and the grower assured me this one was.  There is one little branch part way down the bare trunk --- is that his definition of branching to the ground?

But I like seeing the curvy trunk, and Jim needs to mow around it without getting stabbed by the severely spiny leaves, so I am ok with this holly being limbed up.  I think that lowest little branch should be pruned off.

I actually broke off a branch fussing with it trying to spread the bottom out a bit.  So in addition to being bare below, it's also noticeably lopsided at the base.  Mmph.  Holly has brittle wood.  It just snapped off without much provocation. 

I need to give my holly time to settle in, fill out a bit in this sunnier site, and see how her shape develops.  Patience.  American holly is a slow grower.  Some day she will tower over the side of the house, reaching 40 feet.  I won't be here then.

I need to get holly a boyfriend.  There are no other Ilex opacas around to pollinate this female, and the jury is out as to whether my meserve hybrid hollies or even the winterberry ilex verticallata nearby will do the job.

So now I'm looking for a small 'Jersey Knight' Ilex opaca for a male companion to plant in the same general area.

 

18 comments:

  1. I think you will be pleased with your holly when she fills out. I bet it won't take as long as you might think. The birds plant hollies in my garden all the time. I have left one of them here. It is a male of course. I wish it had been a female. There are plenty of suitors around here. It will be fun to see if your holly has berries this year or next.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lisa, thanks for the encouragement. This holly has fruited in the field where it was growing, so something was pollinating it, although probably not another opaca.

      Delete
  2. Oops, I was cleaning up the comments and accidentally deleted one. It was from Lee May http://www.leemaysgardeninglife.com/ and said:

    Holly good-looking is what it is. And, I'd prune it high enough to expose whatever curve that trunk has. Good luck on finding a man holly.

    My response to his comment:
    Lee, I knew you would approve of the bare stem! You are one of the bravest pruners I know, and your results are artistic. I do think this holly improves with a clean, shorn trunk.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hello Holly is adorable. Hope you soon find her a Knight. I'm still looking for my I. opaca. Will let you know when I do.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Joene, I hope to see your holly when you get one, and track how yours grows in a similar climate.

      Delete
  4. Can I ask a completely unrelated question? I have been squinting hard at your foundation plantings-- I have a narrow south-facing space by my house I want to make as wonderful as your delightful West foundation garden. I love your hydrangea Tardiva. Are you worried it's going to get too big?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Larkspur, the Tardiva hydrangea is probably too big for where I put it. BUT (self serving justification coming up . . .) I did read that it is a smaller variety of paniculata, getting to about 5 feet by 5 feet, and not so big as other panicle hydrangeas. Maybe.

      And hydrangeas can be pruned, although that can be tedious. In fact, my Tardiva hydrangea along the west foundation has been severely pruned - to the ground, zero branches left - by a heavy snow storm last year that broke it right off. I never would have pruned it that hard, but nature did, and new shoots are emerging. That will certainly control its size for a season or two.

      South facing and narrow are two difficult garden design challenges. Good luck! I'll want to see what you decide to put in.

      Delete
    2. Thanks! I am leaning toward Limelight hydrangea-- either Little Lime or the normal-size one. I love Tardiva SO MUCH-- may look for something like for this space, and then stash one in the back when I finally get my beds in back there. Maybe a serviceberry. I'd like something leafy to the ground to block views of the gorgeous AC unit. I have a roughly 40X4-10 foot space against the south side of my house and your West exposure is really the nicest example I've found of a sunny narrow space next to a foundation wonderfully planted. Nothing against yews, but they don't make my heart beat hard!

      Delete
  5. Great job finding the exact plant you wanted. I can see why you would like to have the branches to the ground but that's a pretty nice sturdy trunk on that tree which isn't bad to look at. and as you say, it will fill in plenty and in a few years time you won't likely even think of it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Marguerite, thanks! I am learning to like the bare trunk, it's kind of curvy and interesting.

      Delete
  6. Hi Laurrie, Most non-gardeners would be surprised to know that gardening requires some matchmaking skills! It is hard to find a nursery here that has field grown trees and shrubs. Most seem to favour the wire cages/burlap method. I bet that you are more likely to have success with field grown. Good luck with the hunt for the perfect man holly!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jennifer, It is hard to find field grown trees here too. This was a private niche landscaper who grows his own plants for his own clients (high end as you can imagine) and has been doing it for 30 years. His planting fields are like a tour of an arboretum. Such specimens! There is no way we could afford anything but this one tree from him.

      Delete
  7. I'm impressed you found a local field grown tree! She looks a lot tougher than the Bradford pear. I considered putting hollies into my front garden but went with the purpley loropetalums. Sometimes the heart just wants what it wants. :o)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tammy, I was pretty pleased to find this tree, and it's a good size. I am not familiar with loropetalum, as it won't grow in my zone, but it looks to be a lovely thing!

      Delete
  8. Miss Holly is a beauty, even if she's a little thin on the backside:) I hope there's a Knight in waiting out there somewhere that you can coax into coming to stay with her.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rose, I do find it funny that I have to play matchmaker to a tree. It's possibile that other hollies, the meserve hybrids and winterberries that are around here, will pollinate the American holly, but no one seems to know. I will find her a knight!

      Delete
  9. I linked your blog... I hope it's all right! Let me know if you don't want me to. Thanks for your great suggestions :)

    ReplyDelete

Sorry about requiring code verification -- I experimented with turning it off to make commenting easier, and I got too much spam. Thanks for taking the time to comment, and to type in silly codes. I appreciate hearing from you.