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Holly Hybrid Group Gains Two Varieties
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
Two new hollies, Liberty and Patriot, have made their debut to the Red Holly Hybrid group, giving gardeners seven beautiful new hollies from which to choose.
This group is called the Red Holly Hybrids because several produce new growth that is a red to maroon color. As a whole, these are some of the most elegant and statuesque hollies and are rapidly gaining recognition from Texas to the East Coast. In Mississippi, they are produced in Poplarville and Lucedale.
Liberty, one of the newest, impressed me when it was still unnamed, and I am glad to see it available now. It has huge serrated leaves that are dark green. Liberty grows to a height of 14 feet with a spread of 8 feet. It forms a nice pyramidal Christmas tree shape.
Patriot, also recently named, is smaller, reaching 12 feet high and 6 feet wide. This allows it to match up nicely with Little Red or Festive, two other hollies in the group. Patriot may be the most prolific berry producer of the group, yet it maintains its dark green color. Many hollies tend to turn yellow under the stress of heavy berry production.
All of the Red Holly Hybrids are seedlings of Mary Nell holly and have cultural requirements similar to Nellie R. Stevens.
It is hard to pick out a favorite from these new varieties, especially for a holly lover like myself. The first time I saw Festive I thought it was the prettiest holly I had ever seen. It reaches a height of 12 feet with a spread of 8 feet. It also forms a nice pyramidal shape with tight densely compact leaves. The leaves themselves have stiff, sharp spines.
The three hollies that have gained recognition for their red or maroon new growth are Robin, Little Red and Cardinal. Little Red is the smallest, reaching 10 feet in height and 6 feet in width. It also has the smallest foliage.
Robin is a really good berry producer and is the most similar to Nellie R. Stevens in size and shape. Cardinal is the most similar to Mary Nell, and its large leaves give it a bold texture in the landscape.
All of these hollies are suitable for specimen plantings, but my favorite application is to group three in a triangular pattern allowing room for their mature spread. Repeat this pattern in the garden for aesthetic harmony.
This opens the door for using them as the backdrop for seasonal color or small evergreens like junipers, yaupons or azaleas. Red barberries in front make another pretty combination.
The Red Holly Hybrids are starting to show up at garden centers everywhere, and this would be a good time to get some planted in your landscape. Their roots would get established before the onslaught of high summer temperatures.
One extra nice thing about these hollies is that they are cold hardy throughout the state and their thick waxy leaves gives them unbeatable summer endurance as well. I predict that these seven hollies will become trusted household names in the world of landscaping. They are winners!