It’s All in the Design

Hollies are workhorses in the landscape. They serve myriad functions, from specimen to screen, and provide staying power throughout the seasons. Hardy plants, hollies grow vigorously and are widely adaptable, tolerating a range of soils and growing conditions. Hollies can be used to augment any design, adding texture, contrast, color and structure. Here are a few design considerations to get the most out of hollies in the garden.


With widely varying leaf sizes and shapes, hollies offer a diversity of texture to the garden from dainty, rounded leaves to deeply-cut foliage. Fine textured varieties like ‘Scarlet’s Peak’ Holly have a light and airy feel and can make small spaces seem bigger. The coarse-textured foliage of Oakland™ Holly adds excitement and weight to a planting. Coarse textures can be used to lend a tropical feel, but be careful – too much bold foliage can make a space feel small.


Contrast can be created in many different ways and hollies provide several levels of contrast in the garden. In winter, evergreen foliage provides a foil in color and texture to deciduous trees in the landscape. Likewise, winter berries, such as those of Robin™ Holly, add contrasting color, with vivid red berries standing out against deep green foliage. In summer, the contrast is subtle, with the sturdy, thick leaves of hollies lending an essence of solidity, strength and stability as opposed to the freely moving and animated foliage of grasses and deciduous trees. Such visual contrast adds allure and complexity to a design.


Along with hardscape elements, woody plants provide the structural foundation of a landscape.  With hundreds of species, holly takes on a range of forms, from rounded to upright, vase-shaped to columnar, providing an abundance of material for shaping the landscape. Within a design, holly can play many roles. Whether used singly as a specimen or in groups, hollies add vertical structure to the landscape through height. As specimens, the hollies in the Southern Living® Plant Collection provide two distinctly different vertical accents. The narrow, columnar ‘Scarlet’s Peak’ Holly creates a vertical exclamation point in a small garden. The pyramidal Robin™ Holly provides a feeling of grounding. Although the upright form can carry the eye skyward, the bulk of the plant is close to the ground, settling it firmly into the landscape.


We have all seen hollies planted as a linear hedge, whether as a wall at the edge of a property or a low-growing foundation planting. While these are certainly fine applications, hollies add even more dimension when massed in a stacked pattern. Hollies grow together well and can be assembled to create dense privacy screens. Their deep green foliage creates depth and accentuates showy specimens. 

With such varied impact in design, one can imagine a landscape full of hollies. Of course, with all things balance is of utmost importance. Identify areas in the garden where a holly can enhance the landscape, perhaps by providing a change in height or adding evergreen color for winter. Look at the focal points in your landscape – do they have a solid backdrop? A holly may be just the thing to provide support or contrast. Whatever the application, you can count on hollies for lasting impact and ease of maintenance.