Louis Raymond experiments in his own gardens like

a mad scientist, searching out plants that most people have

never seen before & figuring out how to make them perform.- The Boston Globe

…Louis Raymond ensures that trees can grow in Brooklyn…

or just about any other place where concrete consumes

the dirt and skyscrapers shield the sunshine.- USA Today


NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.


NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.


New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.


Plant Profiles

Today in the Garden of a Lifetime: Free-Range American Holly




American holly can be trained into a peerless and deer-proof evergreen hedge, but if you have room for it, a free-range specimen is a dignified and weather-proof asset. This tree is about twenty feet tall and wide. Although it's probably thirty or forty years old, the tree isn't anywhere near mature, either in age or size. In decades to come, I expect another ten or fifteen feet of height and, because the tree developed as a multi-trunk specimen, that much or more in additional width.


Even as a young adult, this Ilex opaca towers at the back of the woodshed, sixteen feet wide and six feet tall, in which I stack five cords of firewood each Summer. The front of the shed is tarped against Winter storms. In a normal Winter, all five cords will have been brought into the house by mid-April to feed our three wood stoves.


Ilex opaca is particularly important in New England, where the only other broadleaved evergreens of nearly-comparable hardiness and size are the southern magnolia and the hardiest of the tall "timber" bamboos, the species and cultivars in the genus Phyllostachys. North of Hartford, and north and west of greater Boston, Magnolia grandiflora is normally possible only as a carefully-sited espalier. It's not usually realistic to train an espalier as tall as mature American holly. Even if it were, the espalier would still need to be sheltered by siting against the west or south face of buildings.  


Phyllostachys nuda is the hardiest of the tall bamboos, and can be grown anywhere Ilex opaca can; large colonies can grow to thirty feet high. But all Phyllostachys are runners, and need careful siting and handling to control the colony's outward spread. Clumping bamboos with the potential to be the size of American holly are mostly in the genus Bambusa, but their canes die to the ground when sited north of North Carolina. A clump thirty feet tall is unlikely to be found north of South Carolina, which is Zone 8 and warmer.


Ilex opaca, then, is New England's only easy option for broadleaved evergreenity that's larger than a shrub. It deserves a place in any landscape large enough to accommodate it. For more compact properties, and for any garden that needs evergreen deer- and ice-proof screening—and what garden doesn't?— grow American holly as a hedge.


Here's how to grow a form of American holly that has yellow berries.  Its free-range mature size, habit, culture, and options for handling are the same as for the straight species of American holly shown above.

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