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Garden with a Winner!™

Blue Princess Holly

Blue Princess Holly (Ilex X meserveae Blue Princess) is a female clone of the Meserve hybrids named for the developer Kathleen Meserve. The original cross was between English Holly and the Tsuru Holly in an attempt to develop an English-type Holly with tremendous hardiness which came from the Tsuru Holly genes. The foliage colour is somewhat bluish-green which led to the common name(s) of many resulting hybrids. In actual fact, the foliage is really green and very glossy, to my mind, an excellent traditional holly look and appeal. The leaf edges are quite pronounced and tremendously spiny, so gloves are a good idea when working around the plant. The stems of this variety are rather purplish which adds even more interest to the overall look of this plant. The flowers, as with most hollies, are tiny and in clusters generally appearing in May or late spring depending on climate. Beautiful red berries will appear in the fall provided the plant has been pollinated by a male plant with lasting qualities usually through the winter.

Hollies have male and female plants, so it is important to plant male plants with females to ensure pollination. Often nurseries and garden centres will have the plants clearly identified and in some cases, both male and female plants share the same container. Simply by the name, Blue Princess, you can figure out that it is a female plant, its counterpart is called Blue Prince. How many male plants are sufficient to ensure fertilization, sounds like a bad joke! In fact a single male plant for every three to five female plants is a safe ratio. Blue Princess is an evergreen shrub and as such, will provide excellent winter interest to the landscape, particularly with its red fruit. Blue Princess can reach a height of 2.5m so consider the placement in your landscape carefully. She is an excellent candidate for hedging but will require frequent pruning to keep her shape.

Blue Princess, as with all Hollies, doesn’t like wet feet, so drainage is essential. Additionally, soils that are somewhat acidic are preferred with higher Ph causing foliage yellowing, leaf drop and, in some cases, a scorching affect on the foliage. Ph can be lowered using compost or peat moss additives as well, there are a host of acidifying fertilizers on the market. Insect pests are not particularly excessive; however, scale and spider mite can occur in warmer conditions. This holly will do nicely in partial shade as well in locations that are somewhat protected from winds. Many gardeners in colder regions, below zone 5, will take extra caution and protect the holly shrub with a wrapping of burlap. NEVER use plastic or poly as a winter cover for any shrub! The burlap or similar fabric is not an insulator but rather a sun block.

Holly has an interesting association with the winter and festive season. The contrasting brilliant crimson berries against the glossy green foliage is steeped in symbolism.

The ancient Celts believed that Holly ruled the darker seasons of the year (winter) as did Oak for the brighter seasons. It was believed that Holly would protect the household from lightning strikes as well symbolize that the energy of life is ever present.

The Druids found symbolism in the red and green colours contrasting in Holly. Their spirituality included both male and female, each represented by either red or green. The holly plant exhibiting both colours simultaneously brought great reverence for the plant.