Here’s an over-the-top decorating idea for the holidays: Make your yard feel more Christmasy by planting holly bushes in the Buffalo area right now!
“It’s been such a mild December,” said Teresa Buchanan, general manager of Lockwood’s Greenhouses, 4484 Clark St., Hamburg. “That’s the only reason you can get away with planting holly now. Normally, it would be too cold by now.”
This is the time of year when holly bushes look their most splendid, adorned with their red berries, often blanketed in snow. People admire them in other gardeners’ yards and wish they had planned better and planted them in the spring or fall.
This year you can actually plant them during the Christmas season! You can plant green holly bushes until the ground is frozen, and most of us still don’t have frozen soil.
It’s not the cold that will kill a new plant, Buchanan explained, but a quick change in temperature that kills it. If you plant an unfrozen specimen in unfrozen ground, it will be fine because the root ball will be insulated by the surrounding soil. The root ball will slowly freeze as the soil around it changes temperature.
With holly, it’s important to choose a site that will be protected from west winds, she said. Like other broadleaf evergreens, holly can be burned or dried out by strong winds. The leaves will turn brown.
To protect them the first year, you could wrap your holly bushes, but the most important thing is to choose that permanent location well, Buchanan emphasized.
As you would for any new plants, keep your bushes well watered for the first six weeks.
You could also keep holly bushes in an unheated garage or other area protected from wind until you can plant them in the spring.
If you want berries, you need to buy a male and a female bush, she pointed out. The male bush must be planted within 50 feet of the female bushes.
Many people buy several female bushes and one male. The names of the varieties sometimes indicate which sex you are buying. For example, there are Blue Prince and Blue Princess holly bushes.
There is also a variety called Honeymooners, with a male and female specimen planted in the same pot.
At this time of year, you can also buy variegated holly, but that’s not hardy in our area, she said.
You can use variegated holly for decorating inside. Don’t use it for a wreath that you want to hang outside; the variegated holly will freeze and turn black.
The variegated holly is more perishable than the other winter greens, so Lockwood’s keeps it in a florist cooler. It will last only a few days out of water, but in an arrangement with nice wet oasis, it will last a week or two, Buchanan estimates. If you’re using it in an arrangement with Christmas evergreens and fresh flowers, the variegated holly will last longer than the cut flowers, but not as long as the greens.
Tip: Re-cutting the stems on the variegated holly helps keep it fresh, Buchanan said.