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Ilex - Holly

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The vast genus Ilex, belonging to the family Aquifoliaceae, better known as holly, comprises more than four hundred species of evergreen trees and bushes, most of which are native to the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. They grow slowly, can live for more than 300 years, and therefore take years to become trees. They have changed very little since their appearance on Earth, and have experienced major climate upheavals in their environment. This undoubtedly explains their robustness and adaptability. They are basic bushes that perfectly structure the garden during the winter season. Let's not forget their fruits, so cheerful during the gloomy and short winter days, and the perfect harmony of their sharp, dark green branches laden with scarlet berries, softened by a covering of snow.

These plants are not difficult, they just need shade, except for variegated varieties like Ilex argentea Marginata, which need to be planted in the sun, and a deep soil. Hollies tolerate pruning well and can be used in topiary. Some varieties are dioecious, like Ilex aquifolium (common holly), so several plants will need to be planted to have fruits. The latter has given rise to numerous varieties and hybrids with varying variegations and differently coloured fruits. Others are self-fertile, like Ilex aquifolium Pyramidalis. Ilex altaclerensis is resistant to city pollution, Ilex crenata, without thorns, is almost a small tree, one of the largest being Ilex x koehneana, which can exceed 5m (16ft) in height. Ilex x meservae represents a group of hybrids from the USA, renowned for their hardiness and abundant fruit. Use them in hedges, alongside deciduous foliage bushes. Thanks to its persistent fruits during winter, holly is a valuable species for certain birds that feed on them, such as blackbirds and thrushes. There is undoubtedly a holly that suits your garden, whether in a pot, hedge, isolated, in a group, in the undergrowth, or as a border.

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