What to plant under holly trees?

sueroAugust 13, 2010

A landscaping crew that came out to prune the plants that the landscaping company had planted, cut away to a height of six feet, all the lower branches of two large holly trees that they had not planted and that had provided screening between my property and the neighboring property for over 30 years. They had neither notified me first nor had gotten permission to trim the hollies.

I won't repeat what I said when I saw the result, but now I need to plant something (at the landscaping company's expense) that will serve as a screen, won't grow taller than 6 feet, will be deerproof, evergreen, and have some color in addition to green. The hollies are female.

The now bare area is about 14' x 14'. There are azaleas nearby.

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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

What a horrible experience!

You don't say what exposure this area has; to me, 14 x 14 sounds like at least some of it gets very little sun.

I'm not a pro or an expert, but I'm going to suggest two shrubs. Both are supposed to be deer resistant to some extent (though from what I've read, deer aren't terribly consistent).

Dwarf Burford holly (Ilex cornuta Burfordii Nana) needs some sun; mine get a couple of hours at noon and are happy. Maximum height is supposed to be 5-6'. The problem is that it's only hardy to zone 7. If you're 6B and there's some shelter, they might be okay; you know your situation better than I do, and the local nursery would know how it does in your area. One of mine had significant die-back in the unusually bad spring 2007 freeze, but a couple of years later the only sign of it was some lopsidedness. Red berries follow insignificant white flowers. Beautiful shiny leaves have one spine at the end (not vicious).

Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) is fine with shade. Dozens of modern cultivars are short enough for you. The very attractive pleated flowers range from white through pink to red and maroon; often buds are one color and flowers open to a different color. (If you don't dead-head, there may be fewer blooms every other year.) Your zone is no problem. The plant is toxic to some animals, and should be avoided if children are likely to chew on the landscaping.

If you Google "PlantFiles kalmia" (without quotation marks), you'll find a site that lists several dozen varieties of mountain laurel, with height and bloom color and sometimes photos. Or perhaps your landscaper can give you a list of the varieties stocked by his wholesaler.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2010 at 12:18AM
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suero

There is part sun on the west side of the site and full sun on the south side. The soil is clayey and acidic. I'm pretty sure that the hollies are Nellie Stevens, and they have thrived in this climate, which included 36 or so inches of snow this winter, a snowball sized hailstorm and many 100+ degree days this summer.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2010 at 8:25PM
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