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‘Centennial Girl’ Holly

Ilex centrochinensis x aquifolium 'Centennial Girl'

‘Centennial Girl’ Holly

Ilex centrochinensis x aquifolium 'Centennial Girl'

How are the heights measured?

All tree, and nothin' but the tree! We measure from the top of the soil to the top of the tree; the height of the container or the root system is never included in our measurements.

What is a gallon container?

Nursery containers come in a variety of different sizes, and old-school nursery slang has stuck. While the industry-standard terminology is to call the sizes "Gallon Containers", that doesn't exactly translate to the traditional liquid "gallon" size we think of. You'll find we carry young 1-gallons, up to more mature 7-gallons ranging anywhere from 6 inches to 6ft.

How does the delivery process work?

All of our orders ship via FedEx Ground! Once your order is placed online, our magic elves get right to work picking, staging, boxing and shipping your trees. Orders typically ship out within 2 business days. You will receive email notifications along the way on the progress of your order, as well as tracking information to track your plants all the way to their new home!

Why are some states excluded from shipping?

The short & sweet answer is: "United States Department of Agriculture Restrictions." Every state has their own unique USDA restrictions on which plants they allow to come into their state. While we wish we could serve everyone, it's for the safety of native species and helps prevent the spread of invasive disease & pests. We've gotta protect good ole' Mother Nature, after all.

About Me

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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.

  • Profuse crop of red berries lasts all winter
  • Natural pyramidal habit for specimens or screening
  • Smoother leaves mean the thorns don’t snag clothing
  • Similar to, but much more cold-resistant than English holly
  • Pollinated by ‘Blue Prince’ and by most male hollies

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.

Plant Hardiness Zones 5-9
Mature Width 5-8
Mature Height 12-15
Soil Conditions Moist, Well-Drained Soil
Sunlight Full Sun to Partial Shade
Drought Tolerance Moderate Drought Tolerance
Zones 5-9

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.

Growing the ‘Centennial Girl’ Holly

Size and Appearance

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.

Using the ‘Centennial Girl’ Holly in Your Garden

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.

Hardiness

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.

Sun Exposure and Soil Conditions

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.

Maintenance and Pruning

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.

History and Origin of the ‘Centennial Girl’ Holly

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’.

Buying the ‘Centennial Girl’ Holly at the Tree Center

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.

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‘Centennial Girl’ Holly

Ilex centrochinensis x aquifolium 'Centennial Girl'