Honey Maid HollyIlex x meserveae 'Honey Maid'
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Ilex x meserveae 'Honey Maid'
Outdoor Growing zone
Full Sun, Partial Sun
The Honey Maid Holly is a striking variegated evergreen holly, with bright green leaves that are edged in a broad band of creamy-white. It also carries a heavy crop of bright red berries from September through into March, and is the most cold-resistant variegated holly available. Growing 4 to 8 feet tall, it is an upright pyramid that’s ideal for a lawn, in shrub beds, or even trimmed into a colorful hedge.
The Honey Maid Holly will have the best leaf colors and the biggest berry crop when grown in full sun, but it also tolerates partial shade and even light full shade. It is hardy in zone 5 and can be grown in a pot outdoors from zone 6. Any well-drained soil is suitable, but richer, moist soils are preferred. Plant a male blue holly like ‘Blue Prince’ or CASTLE WALL® nearby as a pollinator for the best berry crop.
We all love holly bushes for their annual bounty of brilliant-red berries timed perfectly for the holiday season. The rest of the year, though, they are green. Now green is great, and should be the main color in every garden, but sometimes we need more splash, more excitement, and that’s when you need to sweeten things up with a dash of honey – the Honey Maid Holly, that is. She certainly does bring that harvest of berries, but they are displayed against a bright and colorful background of creamy-white and light green. This variegated bush has wonderful leaves that are bright and colorful all year round – a perfect addition to your beds, and a terrific way to have your berries and enjoy bright leaves too. Plus, the leaves only have a few small spines, so you can safely plant it beside a pathway or around children, without needing the risk of nasty prickles. With all the benefits of holly, plus sparkling, bright foliage, this is one garden sweetener you can’t have too much of.
The Honey Maid Holly is an upright evergreen shrub that grows quickly to become 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide within 5 years, maturing to somewhere around 8 feet tall, and 5 feet wide, if you don’t trim it. The dense, twiggy growth keeps branches to the ground for years, so you don’t have awkward spaces below it leaving gaps in your beds. The leaves are oval, and unlike most holly they don’t have vicious spines along the edges, just a few scattered short points along an irregular border. They are smooth and glossy, with a leathery texture, and about 2½ inches long and 1 inch wide. The leaves are a soft, slightly yellowed green – much brighter and lighter than the typical dark leaves of holly. Around the edge of each leaf is a bold band of creamy-white. This bright border is slightly irregular, but continues all the way around the leaf. It is almost pure white in spring when the leaves are new, maturing to a creamy shade for the rest of the year.
In spring clusters of many tiny flowers open where the leaves meet the stems on branches from the previous year. These tiny blossoms have white petals tipped with red. Since this is a female tree (holly has separate male and female trees) those flowers will develop into berries, first green, and then by fall bright, shining red. These are ¼ inch across, and produced in abundance, making a striking display against the white and green leaves. The berries are attractive for months, ripening in September, and still colorful the following March. For a good berry crop a male tree is necessary. We recommend the Blue Prince or Castle Wall® hollies as ideal pollinators, or for a smaller garden plant the compact Blue Baron. One male tree will pollinate 5 to 7 female trees.
With its bright and cheerful foliage and months of red berries, this shrub is ideal for brightening your beds, especially during those quiet months of winter. Sparkling in the winter sunshine, or glowing against black earth, it’s a real stunner that you will love – so much brighter than dark green holly bushes. Plant it in shrub beds, as a smaller lawn specimen, around woodlands, or even, from zone 6, in a planter box or tub. Its almost spineless leaves make it safe to plant beside paths and entrances too. Make an amazing bright hedge, or mix it with a dark green holly for a unique ‘tapestry’ hedge. For hedges, space plants 2½ feet apart.
Like other blue hollies, the Honey Maid Holly is very hardy, especially compared with English holly and many others. It grows well in zone 5, and possibly also in sheltered spots in warmer parts of zone 4, yet it also grows well all the way into zone 9.
A sunny location, or partial sunlight each day, is best for the Honey Maid Holly. This will give the best leaf colors and also the heaviest berry crops. It will also grow in full shade that is light and dappled, such as beneath deciduous trees or beside a north-facing wall, but not as vigorously. It grows well in all kinds of well-drained soils, with the strongest growth in rich and moist soils, although once established it is drought resistant to ordinary summer dry periods.
The Honey Maid Holly is resistant to the insect pest holly leaf miner (Phytomyza), and also to the leaf diseases Tar Spots (Macroderma), and Leaf Spot (Cerocespora). Other pests and diseases are rare, and deer leave it alone. It can be trimmed, but its naturally neat pyramidal form makes that mostly unnecessary, and excessive trimming will reduce the berry crop. Trim in early summer when you can see the developing berries to minimize trimming them off. Don’t trim later in the season.
We have the enthusiasm and dedication of Kathleen Kellogg Meserve to thank for the group of cold-resistant hollies we call ‘blue holly’. She had a large garden in St James, Long Island, and there she gathered together many different species of holly, wanting to create reliable varieties for colder regions. She crossed together the English holly, Ilex aquifolium, and a very cold-hardy, but low-growing holly from Japan called Ilex rugosa. Over several decades she produced a whole range of them, collectively known today as Ilex x meserveae. One of her best was called Mesid, and she patented it in 1979. She then registered the name Blue Maid® for her tree. Late last century, at a nursery in West Grove, Pennsylvania, Angel Sanchez was growing plants of Blue Maid®. He spotted a unique branch growing on one, which had variegated leaves. He rooted pieces of it, and the resulting plants were given the name Honey Maid. The plant was patented in 2000 (PP# 12,060), a patent that has now expired.
For bright, reliable evergreen brightness year round, especially in cooler parts of the country, the beautiful Honey Maid Holly is unbeatable. Despite its obvious beauty, this plant is often not available, so order now and take advantage of the stock we have, while it is available. You will be so glad you did.