Centennial Girl HollyIlex centrochinensis x aquifolium 'Centennial Girl'
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Ilex centrochinensis x aquifolium 'Centennial Girl'
Outdoor Growing zone
Full Sun, Partial Sun
The Centennial Girl Holly is an outstanding hybrid holly that has the best features of the English holly, but is much more cold resistant. It carries a profuse crop of bright-red berries that persist through winter, and it has a natural pyramidal habit that needs little or no trimming to look perfect. Growing to 15 feet tall and 8 feet wide, it is ideal for lawn specimens, hedges, screening and planting in open woodlands. The small thorns lie flat, so they don’t snag clothing the way English holly does.
Full sun to partial-shade is perfect for the Centennial Girl Holly. Plant it in rich, well-drained soil that is moist but not swampy. It grows in most types of soil, with a slight preference for acidic soil. It is resistant to holly leaf miner, as well as the diseases anthracnose and tar spot. A male tree like ‘Blue Prince’ is needed for a good berry crop.
Holly bushes are always favorites, and because they are, breeders are driven to improve them, so there are lots to choose from. One of our greatest breeders was the famous Mrs. Meserve, and she brought us a great holly called Centennial Girl. This is the answer for everyone who loves the look of English holly (the Christmas card classic) but doesn’t live in the limited parts of America where it will thrive. Strongly resembling English holly, it has abundant berries, dark-green leaves with the benefit of softer spines, and it holds its berries right through the winter months. As a lawn specimen it keeps its pyramidal form naturally, or with minimal trimming. Grow it as a hedge or screen, or along the edges of a woodland. Don’t forget to have a suitable male tree nearby for pollination of the flowers and a heavy berry crop. This tree has good disease resistance, and thrives with little care.
The Centennial Girl Holly is an upright evergreen shrub or small tree, with a natural pyramidal form, reaching 12 to 15 feet in height, and spreading up to 8 feet wide at the base. It keeps its lower branches well, or it can be pruned up into a taller tree-form. The bark is dark-gray and smooth. The leaves are 2½ inches long and 1-inch wide, dark-green ovals, with a smooth satin surface and a leathery texture. Unlike English holly, which has angular leaves with spines sticking out in all directions, the spines on these leaves are in rows along the edges. There are usually 6 or 7 spines along each side, and these are short, so this plant is much less ‘thorny’ than English holly, and doesn’t snag your clothes when you are working around it.
In May clusters of greenish-white flowers can be seen along the older stems, and these attract bees and other pollinators. Without a pollinator this plant may produce a few berries, but for a worth-while display a male tree needs to be growing nearby. We recommend Blue Prince, which is a hybrid of the English holly, and hardy in zone 5. Other male blue hollies will also work well, and in warmer areas male English holly and American holly bushes can also act as pollinators. You need one male tree for every 5 to 7 trees of the Centennial Girl Holly, and these can be scattered in a hedge or screen, or simply growing nearby, within about 100 feet.
The berry crop ripens in fall, and stays on the tree throughout most of the winter, rarely being taken by birds before late winter. The crop on this tree is abundant, with the berries in clusters of about 6 all along the branches. They are well over ¼ inch in diameter, and a rich Christmas red – perfect for wreaths and decoration, or simply to brighten your garden through the cold, gray months.
This great tree is perfect for a lawn specimen, perhaps as a pair on either side of an entrance. It fits well into the foundation planting around your home, in the angle of walls or between windows. Plant at least 4 feet away from a wall, fence or path and allow room for its mature size. It can be used in shrub beds, as an effective backdrop to flowering shrubs, and also in more natural settings, such as scattered in open woodland, or along the edge of a group of trees. It makes effective screening, or an evergreen hedge. Space plants 4 to 5 feet apart for hedges, and up to 8 feet apart for screening. This tree would also grow well in warmer zones in a large tub or planter box, outdoors all winter from zone 7.
More cold-resistant than English holly, the Centennial Girl Holly will thrive in zone 5, and of course in warmer zones as well, all the way into zone 9.
Although holly will grow in relatively low-light, it does much better in full or partial sun. In cooler zones full sun is ideal, or areas with a couple of hours of shade a day. In hotter areas afternoon shade will be appreciated. Rich, moist soil that is well-drained and not swampy is ideal, and this tree will grow in most soils, with some preference for slightly acidic ones. Use plenty of organic material when preparing the planting area, and use it as mulch.
The Centennial Girl Holly is resistant to holly leaf miner, and to both leaf tar spot and anthracnose spots, so the foliage is always bright and healthy. Deer usually leave it alone. It can be trimmed or clipped, ideally once the berry crop is visible, to minimize removal of stems with berries. Too much trimming will reduce the production of berries.
Kathleen Kellogg Meserve, the grand lady of holly breeding, is usually associated with her cold-hardy series of blue hollies, like Blue Prince and Blue Princess. She was never content, though, to stick to them, and keep breeding well into her later years. She took out patents on most of her plants – in fact her last patent was in 1999, the year she died, aged 94. What was it for? You guessed it – Centennial Girl. It’s not clear exactly when she did the breeding, but patent #10,750 tells us where it came from. (That patent expired in 2019). At her 10-acre gardens in St. James, Long Island she took pollen from the well-known English holly, Ilex aquifolium, and used it to pollinate a rare Chinese holly, Ilex centrochinensis. Coming from western China, this shrubby plant has smooth, virtually spineless leaves that are glossy and lighter green. It is significantly more cold resistant than the English holly. Among the seedlings she grew she selected the best, and after growing it for a while that plant became Centennial Girl.
This lovely holly bush is ideal for everyone who loves the look of English holly, but lives where it is too cold for it to grow well. It’s brighter green color and profuse berry crop makes it perfect – as many of our clients also think, so our stock won’t last long. Order now.