2013

 
 

Mary Nell holly is a true Southern Belle, a female holly bred in Semmes, Alabama, USA. It is only just now coming into broader availability and is a superb evergreen grown as a small tree (to 20 feet) or pruned as a hedge. Mary Nell holly has some of the prettiest foliage of any holly, which is saying quite a lot. The word shiny doesn't quite convey the beauty of these  leaves, because there is a deeper tone than is found on most holly foliage. And these lustrous leaves maintain their attractiveness year-round. This holly also has a natural, pyramidal form, handsome enough to be a specimen tree. If Mary Nell holly had no other characteristics these would be enough to recommend it. But of course, being a holly, Mary Nell produces berries, or drupes, in plenty. In late autumn the branches are smothered in bright scarlet fruit that contrast strikingly with the deep colored foliage. And, best of all, these berries persist into winter.

Mary Nell holly is tidy and polished in form recommending it for use as a specimen or it will do well in pot culture. And it's dense enough that it works well as a windbreak while the spiny leaves recommend it as a hedge. It would also be dramatic lining a drive or clustered about an entryway. It stands up well to heat and humidity and heavy sun and does best with a moist, well-drained, slightly acidic soil. In the US they grow throughout the southern half of the country. Mary Nell holly would do well throughout the UK, New Zealand and especially well in Australia.

There is one thing they fail to mention at the big, discount nurseries, and that is that hollies are dioecious, which means plants have either male or female flowers. All berry producers, like Mary Nell, are female and though they may produce some fruit without a male pollinator, the fruit production will be much greater with one or more. In the case of Mary Nell holly, any male Perny or Chinese holly will serve as an effective cross-pollinator.

As usual, this special tree will not be found in the popular landscape nurseries but more likely in a specialty, mail-order, plant nursery.

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Mary Nell holly

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