We all love to see those pyramids of green holly bushes, glistening dark-green in summer, and festooned with bright-red berries all through fall and winter. Probably we think it takes a lot of trimming to keep them looking so good – and that certainly used to be true. Not anymore. Newer varieties, like the Christmas Jewel® Holly, have been bred and selected to grow naturally into perfect pyramids without trimming, so now having those specimens in your garden has become super-easy. Imagine having such a beautiful bush, complete with rich-red berries in fall and winter, without all the work of trimming – what an opportunity.
Use the Christmas Jewel Holly as a specimen in your lawn, planted near a patio, or among other shrubs in a border. In a smaller garden it is tall enough to plant in the background, and in a larger one it will look perfect among flowering trees or near larger shade trees. Spaced out in pairs along a driveway it makes a classic entrance way that will really enhance the beauty of your garden and home.
For an effective and attractive screen along a boundary, to give privacy to ground-floor windows, or screen an unattractive view, you can’t beat the all-year-round advantages of evergreens. With its compact growth you won’t even need to trim this screen, but you can easily do so if you want a super-neat effect. Because of its smaller size, the Christmas Jewel Holly is perfect for planting in large boxes or planters too. A pair in large wooden tubs or boxes will look perfect on either side of your front door, and in a larger garden you can move the boxes around with the seasons, to get the most from that fabulous berry display.
Growing Christmas Jewel® Holly
The Christmas Jewel Holly is an upright column-shape or narrow pyramid. It grows steadily to become 6 to 7 feet tall in ten years, ultimately reaching 10 feet tall or a little more. In those ten years it will become 4 feet wide, and later reach around 6 feet in width. It has rich, glossy, deep-green foliage all year round, with no yellowing, and it thrives in zone 6 and throughout all the warmer zones too, right into zone 9.
The leaves are small, giving a compact form to the bush, and they are oval, one or two inches long, and one-quarter to three-quarters of an inch wide. Each leaf ends with a small spine, and there are 5 to 7 spines along each side of the leaf as well, to create that well-known ‘holly leaf’ look. The glossy surface of the leaf gives a rich appearance to this bush.
In spring you may notice inconspicuous greenish-yellow flowers and by summer you will certainly notice the many clusters of green berries, which by fall have become a deep, vibrant red color. Covering the bush from top to bottom, these berries make a great fall display, and remain on the tree right through the early parts of winter. When you look more closely you will see that the berries – which are large, a full 1/3 of an inch across – are usually in clusters of four, and they grow from the stem at almost every leaf base, crowding the stems with beauty. When the holiday season rolls around, you will be able to cut branches smothered in berries to decorate your home in the classic manner.
Planting and Initial Care
The Christmas Jewel Holly will do well in almost any ordinary garden soil that is not constantly wet, or always dry and arid. It grows at its very best in moist, well-drained soil, and in neutral to acidic soils. Enrich the planting area with rich organic material, like garden compost or rotted manure, and mulch around the plant after planting and each spring with similar material. Keep mulch away from the stems and foliage. For maximum berry production, a location in full sun is best, but this plant grows well in partial shade too, and in the hotter zones it benefits from some afternoon shade.
Care and Maintenance
This plant is rarely bothered by pests or diseases, and deer usually leave it alone, so it will grow well with just a very small amount of attention. If you do want to trim, do this in late winter, before the new growth emerges. Unlike most other hollies, this bush will produce berries even if grown alone, but for the maximum berry production it is best to have a male holly tree nearby. The holly varieties ‘Blue Prince’ and ‘Blue Stallion’ are good pollinators, but almost any male variety will work. If you have other holly bushes, adding one or two male trees to your garden will make them all produce many more berries.
History and Origins of the Christmas Jewel® Holly
The Christmas Jewel Holly is a hybrid plant developed from a seedling of a Chinese holly (Ilex pernyi). This tree grows in northern China, reaching 20 to 30 feet in height. It was found in 1858 by the Abbé Perny, a French missionary, and seed was brought out of China in 1900 by the famous American plant collector Ernest Wilson. The wild tree is not widely grown, but Robert Head, from Seneca, North Carolina, who owns Head-Lee Nurseries, collected some seed from a tree of Perny’s Holly. It had been pollinated by other hybrid hollies growing nearby.
He grew the seed, and in 1990 he chose the very best one, which had beautiful glossy foliage, unusually large and abundant berries, and a dense, columnar habit. He called it ‘HL 10-90’ and patented his plant in 2004. Our plants are produced under license, under the trade name Christmas Jewel®, from stem pieces derived from that original special seedling, and they are vastly superior to any seed-grown holly trees. The demand for this exciting newer variety is huge, so order now while our limited stock remains available.