Holly bushes are amazingly useful in the garden, valuable as specimens, and for strong, dense hedges. Not only is the glossy foliage always attractive, but the abundant crops of red berries in winter are an essential feature of a traditional Christmas, and we simply cannot be without them. Most are green all year, but the Robin Holly is remarkable for the rich red color of the new leaves, adding a whole new dimension to spring, and after every trimming. This superb hybrid holly is vigorous, hardy and fast-growing, and in winter the berries are a joy.
Use the Robin Holly to build sturdy hedges over ten feet tall, or plant them in a row for a natural screen. Plant individual trees as lawn specimens, or at the back of shrub beds. Scatter trees along the edge of natural woods for an attractive effect. For hedges space 6 feet apart, and 8 feet apart for untrimmed screens. Use it for group planting, spacing 10 to 12 feet apart, to fill large areas in the background of bigger gardens.
Growing The Robin Holly
The Robin Holly is a hybrid holly, derived from the well-known and popular variety ‘Mary Nell’. It has a naturally-dense structure, forming a broad pyramid 15 to 20 feet tall, and 12 to 15 feet wide at the base, if allowed to grow naturally. In full sun this plant will have a dense, compact habit, but in shade some occasional trimming will help to produce the same effect. The ease of trimming and the dense structure make this an excellent holly for building strong and beautiful hedges. It grows fast, adding 12 to 24 inches a year once established, so it is easy to build good-sized sturdy hedges in just a few years, and 20 feet is often reached in 10 years. The foliage is a rich, deep green, with leaves 2½ to 4 inches long and 1 to 2 inches wide. The surface is exceptionally glossy, looking great in the garden, and also in vases or wreathes when cut. The mature leaves are deep green, and the new leaves are a bold, rich maroon-red color – a unique feature which makes this holly very special. There are three strong spines at the end of the leaf, and 5 to 7 pairs along the margin, giving the classic ‘holly leaf look’ so valuable in the holiday season.
In spring small, inconspicuous creamy yellow flowers appear in clusters among the leaves, and if the tree is pollinated these develop first into green berries, which are usually not noticed, and then in late fall they turn bright orange-red, and they remain on the bush in a bold display for months, well into winter. Birds will eventually take them, making this shrub a valuable contributor to the survival of your local wild bird populations. The large berries are almost ½ inch across, carried in clusters of 2 to 5, and they ripen in November in most areas.
Planting and Initial Care
The Robin Holly is remarkably tough and vigorous. It is hardy from zones 6 to 9, but in zone 6 it should be planted in a sheltered spot. It will grow well in full sun or partial shade, and in almost any soil, from moist to very dry, and from clay to sand. Vigorous and strong growth can be encouraged with evergreen fertilizer applied in early spring. Mulching in fall or spring with rich organic materials – compost or manures – will conserve moisture and keep your tree in the best of health. For hedges, trim in early spring before the new growth begins, and again in early fall, when the burst of new growth trimming causes will have time to mature before the onset of winter. The best berry production is seen on plants that are rarely or never trimmed. For berries you need to have a male holly tree growing within 300 feet of your bush. The Blue Prince Holly or the Castle Wall Holly are both suitable male trees, that can be grown nearby as specimens, or planted among the Robin Holly plants along a hedge or screen. Allow one male tree for every 5 to 7 female trees.
History and Origins of The Robin Holly
The Robin Holly is a complex hybrid plant, found in 1989 by Jack M. Magee from among a batch of seedling trees. These had been grown from seed collected from a plant of the holly, ‘Mary Nell’, at Mr. Magee’s nursery, Evergreen Nursery at Poplarville, Mississippi. The source of the pollen that created these seeds is not known, but ‘Mary Nell’ is a hybrid created from multiple crosses of different species of holly. It began as a cross between the heat-tolerant and very tough Chinese Holly, Ilex cornuta, and the Perny Holly, Ilex pernyi, which has neat, small leaves. One of the resulting seedlings was then crossed with the Lusterleaf Holly, Ilex latifolia, known for its large and attractive blue-green leaves. The Robin Holly has inherited all these good things, and added the unique red new growth, making it an outstanding choice for any garden. Our plants are grown from stem pieces derived from the original plant, which was patented in 1996 – a patent that has now expired. They are true to the original plant in every way. The demand for unique and beautiful hollies is always high, so if you want to grow this plant – and who wouldn’t? – then order now while our stocks last.