Blue Baron HollyIlex x meserveae 'Blue Baron' (PP# 16,151)
View more from Holly Trees
30 day - ARRIVE AND THRIVE™ guaranteeLearn more
Ilex x meserveae 'Blue Baron' (PP# 16,151)
Outdoor Growing zone
Full Sun, Partial Sun
The Blue Baron Holly is the answer when you want a male holly to pollinate your holly bushes, but don’t have a lot of room in your garden. This vigorous bush is profuse with those valuable pollen-bearing flowers, but it only grows a few feet tall and wide, making a broad bun of dark green leaves. In winter the leaves take on attractive shades of burgundy, making it valuable for winter color – a real bonus. No trimming is needed to keep it compact, although it can be made into a neat low hedge with a little trimming, if you want. Plant it among other shrubs, as an edging, or even in pots and planter boxes.
The Blue Baron Holly will grow in full sun, partial shade and even light full shade. Good light gives the most flowers. It grows well even in zone 5, in ordinary garden soils, as long as they are well-drained but not always dry. It has excellent resistance to leaf-spot diseases and other pests, as well as being left alone by deer. It’s ideal for pollinating all female blue hollies, as well as other hybrid hollies with similar parentage. Don’t over-trim as this can reduce the necessary flowering.
One of the most common questions about hollies is, “Why don’t I have any berries?” The answer lies in the biology of holly bushes. This plant has separate male and female flowers, on separate trees. Trees with berries are of course female, and they need a suitable male companion to pollinate them before berries will form. What you need is to have a male tree or two in your garden, and before your eyes you will see those bushes that haven’t produced a berry in years suddenly be laden with a massive crop of beautiful red berries. There is a problem, though. If your garden is small and already full of shrubs, you might easily not have room for a big male bush – which of course will never have any berries. Every problem has a solution, and for this one the answer is ‘Blue Baron’ Holly. This unique male holly bush is incredibly small and compact, reaching no more than 2 feet tall after 5 years, and maturing in time to no more than 4 feet tall. This compares with the 12 feet height that the otherwise very similar Blue Prince Holly will reach – a big difference, and a ‘make or break’ for many gardens. Yet the Blue Baron Holly carries a big flower crop, more than enough to pollinate several female hollies growing in the same garden. There, problem solved.
The Blue Baron Holly is a rounded evergreen bush, growing vigorously but compactly to reach about 2 feet in height and 3 feet in width after 5 years in your garden. As it matures it will probably reach 4 feet, with a spread of up to 6 feet – still compact enough for smaller spaces. It has a dense, bushy form with many branches and a naturally tight, bun-like form, without the need for trimming. The leaves are glossy and a very dark green, with bluish overtones in certain lights. They are oval, about 2½ inches long and 1½ inches wide, with many spines along the edges, in that classic holly way. New leaves are a lighter green, and in winter the leaves become heavily tinted with burgundy tones, creating an attractive winter look. In spring dense clusters of many tiny flowers form on stems from the previous year, at the base of every leaf. Look closely and you will see that the tiny whitish petals are tipped with violet. These are the male flowers that will produce a big crop of pollen. This plant will pollinate all blue hollies (Ilex x meserveae) as well as many related hybrid hollies that have English holly, the Japanese Ilex rugosa, or Ilex pernyi in their breeding, such as Red Beauty® and Mademoiselle™.
The compact, rounded form of the Blue Baron Holly makes it perfect for growing among the foundation evergreens around your home, giving a neat form without the need for much trimming. It is perfect in the front of beds, paired at the foot of some steps, or on either side of a gate. It can be grown alone, in clusters, or even planted spaced 2 feet apart for an excellent low hedge that is not only attractive but intruder-proof. The spiny leaves will discourage both four-legged and two-legged intruders. It from zone 7 on it can even be grown in pots and planter boxes as an interesting evergreen for year-round foliage.
The Blue Baron Holly is a blue holly, and it has hardy genes. It grows well even in areas where hollies can be difficult, like zone 5, yet it also grows well in warmer areas, all the way into zone 9.
Planted in full sun, partial shade, and even in light full shade, the Blue Baron Holly will thrive, although flowering can be reduced in areas with lower light levels. It grows well in most garden soils, but avoid very dry areas, and areas that are constantly wet. The ideal soil is rich in organic material, well-drained, and moist, but this is not a difficult plant to grow in ordinary conditions.
The Blue Baron Holly has excellent resistance to the foliage diseases Tar Spots (Macroderma), and Leaf Spot (Cerocespora). It is normally free of other diseases and pest problems, and its spiny leaves mean deer leave it alone. It can be trimmed for perfect form and neatness, but we recommend leaving it untrimmed if you are growing it as a pollinator, as this will give you the most flowers. If you do want to trim, do this in early summer, after the new growth has matured a little, and don’t trim late in the season.
The blue hollies are the product of an enthusiastic breeder of hollies, Kathleen Kellogg Meserve. At her garden on Long Island you spent decades producing cold-resistant plants by breeding together the English holly, Ilex aquifolium, and a prostrate holly from Japan called Ilex rugosa. The many varieties she produced are all called ‘blue holly’ for the very dark green of their foliage, and known as Ilex x meserveae. One of her most popular male hollies is called Blue Prince, which Mrs. Meserve patented in 1972. In 1993 Gerald Geers was growing ‘Blue Prince’, at his property in Chance, Maryland, when he spotted a branch that had rich burgundy leaves in winter. He rooted that stem, growing a new plant. It turned out to be much more compact, while still vigorous, and he named it ‘Blue Baron’. In 2005, after years of observation, he was granted a patent on his new variety.
Finding suitable male hollies can be difficult, and if you do they can take up a lot of room in your garden. The Blue Baron Holly solves both these problems, making a handsome small evergreen, with attractive winter foliage, and serving as a pollinator to many of the holly bushes in your garden. Since it is rarely offered, it won’t be in stock for long, so order now, while we still have plants for you.