Ilex crenata ‘Blondie’ (Japanese holly 'Blondie')

Unclipped this could reach 3.5 x 3.5 over 20 years. A perfect plant for hedging and topiary, the new growth is a luscious light green, maturing to dark, glossy green, slightly pointed oval leaves. The flowers are small and white and are followed by black berries in the autumn.

Position in full sun in any fertile well drained soil, in an exposed or a sheltered position. Tolerates pollution so good in an urban environment.


Hardiness traffic light green

Hardiness level Green

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Classy but not brassy. New growth is a luscious light green, with a golden hue that sort of shimmers over the darker growth below. Evergreen and completely hardy with a deeply compacted mass of little leafy leaves which are deeply-dense and each delicately pointed. Pretty and interesting and with so many versatile qualities to commend it we plant it everywhere, not least because it is a fantastic alternative to Box which is becoming more bothersome nowadays. Use Japanese Holly instead (we do) as it is perfect for bringing the same kind of structure and form into a garden design whether it be hedging, edging or topiary.

Never afraid of a trim it will enthusiastically take to all sorts of new hairstyles, handling clipping and pruning with gusto so if you fancy yourself a stylist with your Niwaki shears (other brands are available but those are devilishly good) then go to town.

New wave, flat-top, bobs and pompadour styles are all achievable with a few well-timed trims but if you’re into sharp angles and severe lines to define a geometric space then ‘Blondie’ will handle those just as well, too. Think pyramids, obelisks and cubes, that sort of thing. Or some Atomic spheres and boules, those are nice too. You could do some wonky peacocks or a swan if you really must but such things will get you sent firmly to the back of the line at Studio 54 and your street cred will be ruined. No fashion victims here, please.

Leave it unclipped and let it do its thing, if you like, where it will form its own dense and delicately-textured freeform style attaining a pretty substantial 3.5 x 3.5 metres over 20 years.

Position in full sun in any fertile well drained soil, in an exposed or a sheltered position. Tolerates pollution so is another one of those no-brainer options if you’re in an aggressively urban and dynamic environment like downtown Manhattan, for example.


N.B. When clipping several plants with the same tool, have a bucket containing a 5% bleach solution and swish your blades around for 30 seconds between plants to sterilise them. This will help avoid the chance of cross contamination of disease.

As with all woody plants, plant high, exposing as much of the taper at the base of the trunk as possible. Allowing soil to accumulate round the base of a tree can be fatal. Keep very well watered when first planted.


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