Winter gardens look their best with evergreen plants to brighten up the landscape with the glossy green, steely blues and dark green to purple foliage.
One plant that would fit a small to medium winter Eastern Shore landscape is the Variegated English Holly, Ilex aquifolium “Aurea Marginata.”
The leaves are a dark, glossy evergreen with an irregular border of creamy white or pale yellow around the outside edges.
Each of the leaves has a strong mid rib down the center of the leaf in a lighter green — and the wavy outside edges of each leaf has sharp spines on both sides and the tip of the leaf.
The new foliage has hints of pink before expanding.
Short branches of the holly can be trimmed off the plant and used to create or add to many winter holiday decorations, or they can be tucked into winter flower arrangements to give both color and texture to the designs.
Mature holly plants can grow 15-40 feet tall and 10-20 feet wide if they are grown in well drained moist soils with afternoon shade and protection from the cold winter winds.
Like all hollies, the Variegated English Holly has male and female plants, the male flowers will have white flowers with yellow anthers that hold the pollen and the female plants will have waxy fragrant white flowers that, if pollinated, will mature into bright red berries in the autumn.
(Editor’s Note: Ginny Rosenkranz is a commercial horticulture specialist with the University of Maryland Extension.)