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Domes of holly

Posted: Thursday 10 May 2012
by Andy Sturgeon

It would have been much easier to find yew or box, but I wanted to stick to this little-leafed holly as, with box blight ravaging our formal gardens, it represents our gardening future.


Clipped domes of Ilex crenata

I visited Mount Usher in County Wicklow at the weekend. The amazing, wild William Robinson-style garden is just like the sort of effect I want to create at Chelsea. Rheum, Aruncus, grasses and ferns are all looking superb, as they burst out of the ground in their waterside home.

To fit with the Arts and Crafts theme, this soft haze of textured, contrasting foliage and flowers needs to be anchored by some domes of loveliness. Step forward Ilex crenata. But there's a problem. I have trimmed domes to represent the clipped formality you typically find around an Arts and Crafts house, but I've just decided they weren't good enough quality and have had to source some more at the drop of a hat. Or rather Mark, God bless his socks, at Hortus Loci has had to source some more. So I now have 15, 25-year-old plants being loaded in Belgium. The nursery owner has described them as "babies on the catwalk" and sent me some photos. And they do look gorgeous (see photograph, above).

It would have been much easier to find yew or box, but I wanted to stick to this little-leafed holly as, with box blight ravaging our formal gardens, it represents our gardening future. It also fits my dampish planting scheme as it won't take such a dry soil as box, nor is it susceptible to phytopthora, in the way that yew can succumb in wetter conditions.

And just when you think everything is going so well … most of my cercidiphyllum trees have been clobbered by frosts and cold winds leaving them somewhat battered and bruised. But fear not, the cavalry are coming and replacements are trundling across the planes of Germany as I write this. It could be worse I suppose; I could have chosen beech, like several other designers who now find their hedges steadfastly refusing to unfurl a single leaf in this gloomy weather.



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Fonzie 10/05/2012 at 18:33

Had and still have fifteen Buxus down one side of the garden which were three inches high when we got them. They are now three feet by three feet and make a lovely hedge. Just hope Box blight or any other pathogen don't get a hold on them otherwise may have to consider the Ilex.

Newcastle 13/05/2012 at 19:54

Can Ilex crenata be successfully raised from seed? I have not seen it offered for sale in local garden centres.