Toques off to housewife and amateur gardener Kathleen Meserve, whose longing to grow an evergreen holly with bright red berries, like the too-tender British types, led her to cross-pollinate English holly with a hardy prostrate holly. This resulted in the introduction of the “blue hollies” in 1964; my favourites are ‘Blue Prince' and ‘Blue Princess' (Ilex x meserveae ‘Blue Prince' and ‘Blue Princess,' shown above). Growing three metres tall and four metres wide, these beauties prefer full sun and peaty, acidic, moist but well-drained soil, but are pretty easygoing. All hollies have male and female flowers on separate plants, so it takes two to tango to produce bright red berries on females-which persevere through fall and winter on ‘Blue Princess'. Deck the halls. Zone 4.
Oregon Grapeholly (Mahonia aquifolium)
Height: to 1 m. Spread: to 1.5 m. Location: full to part shade (full sun in moist soil). Cultivation: peaty, moist, well-drained soil; protect from winter winds. Foliage: evergreen, lustrous, spiny; bright green in summer, purplish bronze in fall and winter. Fruit: blue-black cluster. Flowers: yellow, fragrant, in spring. Zone: 6, shown at right.
‘Sarah' mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia ‘Sarah')
Height: to 2 m. Spread: to 1.5 m. Location: full sun to part shade. Cultivation: as above; tolerates moist locations. Foliage: evergreen, medium green; new growth maroon. Flowers: deep red buds; pinkish red in spring. Fruit: brown seed capsules. Zone: 5
‘Winter Red' winterberry, ‘Southern Gentleman' holly
Ilex verticillata ‘Winter Red' (f) and ‘Southern Gentleman' (m)
Height: to 2 m. Spread: to 2 m. Location: full sun to part shade. Cultivation: as above. Foliage: deciduous; dark green in summer, yellow bronze in fall. Flowers: small, white in spring. Fruit: bright red on female. Zone: 4
Dwarf turkestan euonymous (Euonymus nanus var. turkestanicus)
Height: to 1 m. Spread: to 1.5 m. Location: full sun to part shade. Cultivation: peaty, acidic, well-drained soil. Foliage: evergreen (where mild); blue-green in summer, red in fall. Flowers: brownish purple in May. Fruit: pink, with red seed capsules. Zone: 2