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Holly of the Year 2005...

At an HSA Board of Trustees meeting in 2002, someone suggested that the Holly Society begin recommending a "holly of the year." It would be an ideal way to bring superlative hollies to the attention of the public and to introduce gardeners and nurserymen to the existance of the Holly Society of America. In naming the program, the board honored the late Gene Eisenbiess, a holly expert from the National Arboretum who had done so much over the years to help the Society.

The committee in charge of selecting the Gene Eisenbeiss Holly of the Year try to pick out hollies that are available at a wide range of nurseries, would be easy to grow, and would be hardy in a number of USDA Hardiness Zones.


2005 Gene Eisenbeiss Holly of the Year
Ilex × koenheana 'Lassie'

Holly of the Year
Photo by Bill Cannon

The result of crosses between Ilex aquifolium and I. latifolia are called I. × koehneana hollies. These plants have turned out to be as hardy or more hardy than either parent. They have survived winters to -7°F (-21.7°C) with very little damage. The star of the family is 'Lassie'. It was discovered by Stuart McLean and registered by the Holly Society in 1970, registration number 2-70.
     
'Lassie' grows quickly, averaging 8–10 inches (20.3–25.4 cm) each year until it reaches a height of 20–25 feet (6.1–7.6 m) at maturity. Situated in full sun, it will retain a pyramidal shape with little pruning.
     
The leaves are long and glossy green with many short spines. The plant has been compared to the evergreen southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora).
     
'Lassie' is a female holly that never fails to set fruit if a pollinator is nearby. It seems to be the earliest in its family to set fruit, even fruiting the first year. The berries are shiny, vivid red and 5/16 inches (7.9 mm) in diameter. Male pollinators include I. × koehneana cultivars 'Ajax', 'Chieftain', 'Jade', and 'Loch Raven', although English and other hybrid male hollies that bloom at the same time will do.
     
'Lassie' has earned the Gene Eisenbeiss Holly of the Year Award for 2005. Koehneana hollies and especially 'Lassie' will soon be favorite landscape plants.


Holly of the Year

Photo by John Ruter


 

 

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