This is a beautiful native Holly (Ilex aquifolium) to the UK. Its new young shoots are distinctively tinted pinkish-red. The broad foliage is spiny, but not excessively so, with a broad creamy white margin surrounding the olive green centre.

During winter the clusters of glossy, bright red berries line the branches and just last week whilst working in my own front garden, I spotted a wood pidgeon guzzling them down. No munching just swallowed whole, one after the other. I feared I’d have none left to decorate the house with, so as soon as it flew off, I got my secateurs out and got snipping at a few branches with some remaining berries on.

The Woodland Trust’s website has a fantastically informative page about our much loved and enduring native Holly a very interesting insight into its ancient history and the pagan beliefs associated with it. This variety of Holly (Ilex aquifolium ‘Argentea Marginata’ is female and so will need a male plant nearby to make those beautiful berries. Holly is dioecious, (di = two, hence separate male and female plants to produce seed (those beautiful red berries). Interestingly, my own female tree isn’t planted with any other Holly but I am tempted to suggest that it gets pollinated by the Holly trees from the nearby forest, at the end of my road, which I know for a fact has Holly trees in. If in doubt, go for a walk around your local area to see if you can spot any Holly trees or go buy yourself the opposite gendre plant.

Botanical name: Ilex aquifolium ‘Argentea Marginata’
Other names: Silver-margined holly
Genus: Ilex
Variety or cultivar: ‘Argentea Marginata’ _ ‘Argentea Marginata’ is a conical evergreen tree with spiny leaves edged with cream (and flushed pink when young) and small, dull white flowers followed by red berries.
Ilex aquifolium ‘Argentea Marginata’ is: Evergreen
Flower: White in Spring
Foliage: Dark-green, Variegated, Flushed pink, Cream in All seasons
Fruit: Red in Autumn; Red in Winter
Habit: Open branches
Toxicity: Berries may cause discomfort if ingested.
Awards: RHS AGM (Award of Garden Merit)

Of course, in terms of identifying them, as to their gendre, you will need to wait for spring and their flowers, the female flowers have a prominent green ovary (a little green mound in the centre), surrounded by four stamens, but these are small and sterile. The male flowers’ have four protruding stamens which produce the pollen for the ladies, so you need one in your proximity. I hope you have fun walking around your local streets and woodlands in search of Holly. If you find what you are looking for please do get in touch and it would be great to see some photos too!

As you know, if you’ve read my blogs before, I am a big Graham Stuart Thomas fan and in my hand is a copy of ‘Colour in the winter garden’ which I can’t recommend highly enough! I quote from page 73: “Ilex aquifolium ‘Argentea Marginata’, the most beautiful in growth and colour of the white-variegated kinds, particularly attractive when bearing berries.” I couldn’t agree more!

Happy searching..

If you would like to talk with me about a new planting scheme for your garden or a bespoke Dingly Dell, please do feel free to get in touch, my email is judi@judithegardener.co.uk. For gardening development and maintenance enquiries (North-East London, Essex, Hertfordshire and Enfield) please telephone 07818 005773.

Happy gardening!