Follow our Holly Trail from 1 December and be inspired to find space in your garden for at least one specimen
There are roughly 400 species of the genus Ilex (holly) found throughout the world, with the exception of Australia. However, in general, they are little encountered other than a few well known cultivars and our own British native (Ilex aquifolium) - familiar to everyone as a traditional Christmas decoration.
RHS Garden Rosemoor’s National Plant Collection of Ilex was started by Lady Anne Berry. It has since grown to approximately 150 species and cultivars and continues to expand.
Choose a holly
Hollies have a fascinating history and are a great garden plant on many ways, with evergreen foliage and vibrant berries. There is a holly for almost every situation (except in waterlogged soil) and no garden should be without one:
• Berries can be red or black but some are yellow, white or orange
• Leaf size ranges from the tiny leaves of Ilex crenata (for example Ilex crenata 'Dwarf Pagoda') to the bold leaves of Ilex kingiana
• Leaves can be rounded to lanceolate (e.g. Ilex aquifolium 'Lichtenthalii')
• Margins may be toothed, smooth or spiny (e.g. Ilex 'Mary Nell')
• Variegation gives vivid contrast (e.g. Ilex aquifolium 'Handsworth New Silver' AGM)
• Year round interest and can light up dark areas of the garden
Good reasons to plant a holly
• Berries provide a meal for hungry birds
• Variety in leaf form is amazing
• Your tree will supply you with free Christmas decorations at an expensive time of year.
RHS Rosemoor Holly Trail
The Holly Trail launches on Tuesday 1 December and Chris Bailes, former curator at Rosemoor and holly expert, will be giving a talk at 11.30am to mark its launch.
AGM hollies and ivies
History of RHS Garden Rosemoor