It is evergreen and the berries appear late in the fall and persist well into winter, so it is a very showy red and green in December. That has made it, like the poinsettia, a favourite holiday decoration.
English holly thrives in its native Mediterranean climate where it is a very large tree, but it will not survive the winter anywhere in Canada except the mildest Pacific regions.
All hollies are dioecious – a word which comes from the Greek for "two houses". It means that
female and male flowers are on separate plants. Only the female plants will bear fruit and there must be a male somewhere in the vicinity in bloom at the same time so pollination is possible. There are a few types that can produce some berries without pollination, but even in those cultivars, the berry crop is better if a male is present.
The goal was to develop an evergreen holly with the preferred spiny leaves and red berries, but small enough to be used in the home landscape and hardy enough to survive colder winters.
Most local nurseries sell both male and female cultivars, and occasionally, both sexes are grouped into one container, looking like one plant. The surest way to know that you have a female is to buy one bearing berries.
In most Ottawa locations, these blue hollies will do best if given some protection from the winter sun and wind, which seems unfortunate given that winter is the season of highest interest for these plants.
It is a small shrub, hardy to Zone 3 so does not need winter protection. Its leaves do not have spiny margins and it is deciduous, but it does have bright red berries which persist on the bare branches through the winter.
Republished on There Blooms a Garden with thanks.