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Hi All,

I need to repllace some large drifts of Boxwood with Ilex crenata, in heights varying from 50cm to 100. Has anyone good first hand experience of using Ilex in this manner and what varieties work best.By that I mean is there one variety e.g. 'green hedge' that gives a tighter finish over another.The site has both full sun and shaded aspects. Drip hose irrigation will be used to ensure they establish in another possible heat wave this summer.The soil is quite chalky too and I am led to believe that they do better in more acid soils.


Any input would be appreciated



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  • PRO

    Hi Paul, in my limited experience of illex crenata - ive found it to be a weak and fussy plant. 

    I believe the species is from asain mountain ranges and therefore likes free draining soils that dont dry out for extended periods of time. The trouble being if they get too wet in the wrong soils they just die off -- particularly in winter and then again if they dry out in the summer for too long they die off. 

    I planted 15 or so in my garden to trail them and i lost half first year and the other half the next year. I also know various gardens and nurseries where the exact same thing happened.

    One of my clients has some very large bonzai illex crenata which are wonderfull but the soil in the pots they are planted in is extremely free draining and dust like -- these are out of any direct sun and seem to do extremely well with very little maintanence at all. 

    There may well be stronger hybrids around now but in my experince they are very fussy -- getting the soil right( which you might already have ) i think would be key and very carefull irrigation - although im sure many might just treat them mean and have no issues. 

    Have you thought about alternatives such Pittosporum types, hebes, osmanthus or teucrium. Nothing really looks or behaves the same as box -- illex will be closer looking but will probably cost quite a bit and may be a pain. 

    • Hi Dan,

      Not the feedback I was hoping for but kind of feared.The outlay would be substantial too for the client,which makes me apprehensive about committing to such a large outlay when I'm not confident it will all go swimmingly.

      I am a huge fan of Osmanthus burkwoodii but I fear it may need alot of controlling,more than 2 cuts per season. Three or more might solve the tightness issue though. Lonicera nitida might be better ,but I don't think the client will go for it .It also needs more regular clipping..

      The others you suggest wouldn't get through the winter here, the hebes yes but pittosporums all need protecting with thermal covers. The Osmanthus needs more considering, but it could well be the solution!!. Thanks a million!!

      Have a good weekend



      • PRO

        Paul how cold are your winters ?  We had lovely Pittosporum 'Tom Thumb'  go through minus 10 and below last year -- admittidly they are purple but if they can handle minus 10 -15 many of the other ones should.  The advantage of som eof the Pittosporum is their mature sizes are small -- 1.5m max which means clipping becomes very minimal task. 

        What about if you did a trial of several types in client garden -- illex types and others and then spread the risk and see what works best ?

        • PRO

          Osmanthus is great -- and popular for clipping but im not sure how long it will live being ball clipped -- as obviously eventually it creates such a tight branching structure it over congests itself and might need cutting harder back to start the process again. But that could be 10 -20 years and probably too long to consider a major issue 

        • Hi Dan,

          Really?? I lost count of the amount of Tom thumbs I lost in Ireland back in the day due to a shap dip in temperatures.Trust me if they couldnt survive on the sandy clay in my garden in the south east of Ireland , they will never do here. I'm nearly 10 years in Belgium and never saw one for sale or in a catalogue either . Really Lovely plant mind. 

          Temperatures rarely hit -10 for very long here but sustained periods of -6  etc are common.. I work on heavy clay too so they wont fancy that I think

          .Also the client might not have the patience for trialling. It's not that type of garden. Don't get me wrong I want them involved in the decision but I'd rather collate as much info first and present them with a shortlist of alternatives. The words think maybe and hope wont be welcome I'm guessing. 

          As I say theres more work to be done before roots touch soil.. 

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