November plant of the month

An un-holly-like holly makes a great box replacement

Ilex crenata 'Fastigiata' at RHS Garden RosemoorIlex crenata is a surprisingly diverse species within the genus Ilex (hollies). The small leaves of this species make it an ideal subject for clipping and though similar in appearance to box, it is not related, so does not suffer from box blight. Ilex crenata 'Fastigiata' AGM is an upright cultivar that can be found in the Stone Garden flanking the shelter.

Much of the work is already done for the gardener with this lovely cultivated form as the tight upright growth of I. crenata ‘Fastigiata’ requires much less in the way of maintenance to keep its columnar appearance. Occasional clipping of wayward branches may be required, which will also benefit the plant in increasing its density of growth.

Another attractive attribute of this plant are the tiny white flowers which appear in the spring, and due to this cultivar being female, black berries are sometimes produced in profusion in the autumn.

Ilex crenata 'Fastigiata'Due to its stature, this plant likes a sheltered spot, protecting it from strong winds which can damage the foliage. Hollies are not fussy as regards soil, as long as it is not too wet and heavy. When choosing a plant for a site it is always tempting to select something that is larger to give instant impact. Though this may be true, establishment problems can occur particularly when the upright growth is larger in proportion to the root ball.

Usually a smaller plant is quicker to establish and grow to the dimensions of the site more successfully than a larger plant. The other option, if deciding to go for a larger specimen, is to reduce and thin out the top growth, by no more than a third, which will help to bring it back into proportion with its root ball.

When selecting a plant from a nursery, they will either be pot-grown or field-lifted. Hollies do not always look at their best when they are potted but do quickly respond when planted out. If buying field-grown stock, which will generally be of larger dimensions, do ensure that the stock has been properly prepared prior to lifting and that severed roots have been given the chance to produce a fibrous root ball.
 


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