Carissa (left) and dwarf Chinese hollies (right) are the handsome, enduring and trouble-free shrubs in the Sperrys’ entry courtyard. Photo by Neil Sperry.
Hollies, the Sperry landscape All-Stars
Some might accuse me of being obsessed with hollies. Honestly, that wouldn’t especially offend me. They are, after all, time-proven and handsome, and there’s one for almost any landscaping need.
This isn’t an especially inspiring look at the entry to our house. It’s actually probably the most boring angle I could have selected, but it shows two clusters of hollies that have been growing in the same places for 30 years. Carissa hollies are to the left, and dwarf Chinese hollies are to the right. They were planted from 5-gallon pots, and the plants are approximately 3 feet apart.
I fertilize these beds three times a year: early spring, early summer and early fall. I honestly don’t remember the last time that pruning shears touched the plants. They received a good bit of afternoon sun when they were young, but the pecan tree whose trunk you see now towers over our entire driveway and courtyard, and these plants are in complete shade all through the day.
On a beauty scale, if there were such a thing, I’d probably rate these two varieties a sound B-plus. But, the really critical part of that rating is that, for these hollies, it holds 52 weeks out of the year. These plants never change. Oh, spring growth is a little brighter and shinier, so for those couple of months, my B-plus ramps up to a solid A. Compare that to most flowering shrubs that are either deciduous or semi-evergreen, and my hollies keep looking better. Plus, the flowering plants hit their peaks for only a couple of weeks.
I’m happy with the steadiness of my hollies. That’s why my landscape centers around them. In order of increasing mature size, my favorites include dwarf yaupon, Carissa, dwarf Chinese, Dazzler (not sold in the trade any longer), dwarf Burford, First Lady yaupon (only sold in the trade for a few years), Willowleaf (also sold as Needlepoint), Oakland, Nellie R. Stevens, Warren’s Red possumhaw and yaupon hollies.