Plant of the Month by Martin Fish
HOLLY – Ilex ‘J.C. van Tol’
Hollies come in a range of different shapes and sizes and many have attractive variegated and colourful foliage that looks good all year round. They can be used in various way around the garden as shrubs, trees or hedges and all are totally hardy.
An excellent garden variety is Ilex ‘J. C. van Tol’ which has dark green glossy leaves that unlike its cousin the common holly, are smooth and prickle free. This makes it much easier to handle when trimming and pruning or for sprigs that you want to bring into the house over Christmas. Another great advantage is it’s a self-fertile female, which means it produces berries without needing to be pollinated by a male tree. If there is a male holly close by, you will get even more berries! The bright red berries ripen in autumn and glisten on the branches through winter to create a lovely display. ‘J. C. van Tol’ naturally has a conical habit, especially when young and it makes a good specimen plant, although it also makes an excellent, dense evergreen hedge that’s wildlife friendly. If allowed to grow it will eventually reach 6m in height, although it responds well to pruning so that you can maintain its size and shape.
Martin Fish is a gardening columnist, broadcaster, speaker, RHS judge and all-round horticulture expert. He writes for publications including Garden Answers, Kitchen Garden and Which? Gardening.
We have worked with Martin closely over a number of years and each month he chooses a favourite Plant of the Month for us, with tips and advice for planting and growing in the garden.