Meserve Holly (Ilex x meserveae)
The Meserve Hollies are popularly known, as "blue Hollies" because their spiny leaves are blue-green, especially in winter. They are hybrids, combining the cold hardiness of a type of Japanese Holly with the beauty of English Holly. Like most Hollies they are easy to grow, offer colorful berries, and have separate male and female plants. Their berries and foliage are poisonous to humans if eaten. Meserve Hollies are notable for their cold hardiness, which means that they can withstand winters in northern yards.
Because Meserve Hollies are shrubs, they have several stems, rather than a single central trunk that trees have. Typically, their stems grow from 7 to 15 feet high. Meserve Hollies respond well to pruning and can be kept nicely compact at about 5 feet. They spread from 3 to 12 feet.
Meserve Holly leaves are evergreen, stiff, glossy, and distinctively blue-green above, lighter beneath. Leaves of most Meserve varieties have the spiny edges characteristic of most evergreen Hollies. As winter sets in, they become more purplish-green. Individual leaves may be from 1 to 2-1/2 inches long and 1 to 2 inches wide, depending on the variety.
Meserve Holly flowers are small and white, with 4 tiny petals. Male flowers grow in small clusters where the leaves join the stems. Female ones are solitary or in smaller clusters than the males. Flowers of both sexes appear in late spring or early summer, those of ‘Blue Prince’ continuing to bloom sparsely over the summer. The red berries, about 5/16 inch in diameter, appear in mid-autumn on female Meserve Holly shrubs and remain into early spring.
Meserve Holly Choices
The family of Meserve Blue Hollies includes: Blue Prince:with a height to 6 feet and spread to 7 feet. This male Meserve Holly is an excellent pollinator. Blue Princess is the female consort to Blue Prince. Blue Maid is a Pennsylvania Horticultural Society Gold Medal Winner. It has a height to 6 feet and spread to 6 feet; with foliage and berries being larger than those of other Meserves. This is a rapid grower, and is the hardiest of all Meserves. Blue Stallion is a vigorous grower with leaves having no spines. Blue Angel is the slowest growing and most compact of this group. It is good for hedges but is hardy only to zone 6. Golden Girl has yellow berries and grows to 15 feet if unpruned. Other excellent hybrid Hollies in this group are: China Boy is a rugged and vigorous plant with excellent foliage accents. It grows to 10 feet. China Girl has dark, glossy green leaves, an upright rounded habit, and lots of berries.