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ilex golden king tythorne garden design.

Ilex 'Golden King': the perfect holly for festive celebrations

Ilex ‘Golden King’ (or Ilex x altaclerensis ‘Golden King’, to give it its full name) is part of the holly family. With lovely variegated leaves and beautifully festive red berries, it is perfect as a specimen plant in any mixed border.


A relatively fast growing holly, and happy in most soil types and conditions with the exception of those that are very wet, I. ‘Golden King’ prefers full sun or dappled shade. Given time, it can form a small tree and achieve heights of 6-8m, but is more typically seen as a tall shrub of 2-3m. It also makes a fine evergreen hedge or living screen if clipped in late summer.


As garden designers, we often like to use I. ‘Golden King’ in the gardens we create because its lovely conical growth habit makes it an ideal plant for providing textural contrast. Its slightly spiny leaves are also wonderful for contrast, being mid-green in colour but tipped with a delightfully cheerful golden yellow. We also really love I. ‘Golden King's’ pretty small white late summer/early autumn flowers, and the glorious small red berries which usually follow.


Despite its name, I. ‘Golden King’ is actually a female plant, and to bear fruit (berries) it requires a nearby male holly. Rather confusingly (don’t blame me…we are just the messenger on this!) there is a male holly called Ilex ‘Golden Queen’, which looks very similar and will flower but not produce berries. ‘Golden King’ and ‘Golden Queen’ make ideal companions, particularly if grown together to form a hedge or screen. 


Other male hollies will, however, also help with pollination, and being a traditionally popular evergreen plant it is likely that there will be one close enough to ensure that an I. ‘Golden King’ planted as a ‘lone’ feature holly will produce berries.


A slight word of caution- hollies are toxic. Children, being are attracted to the brightly coloured berries, are especially vulnerable if they digest the fruit in quantity. It’s worth pointing out that lots of other popular plants are also (to varying degrees) toxic if consumed, so we should all take some care when selecting plants for our gardens. We would also say that it is also vitally important that we take responsibility for educating our children about not eating berries unless they have been specifically told that it is safe to do so.


Despite the toxicity, holly has been used for decorating our homes since pagan times. As far as we are aware, confirmed incidents of holly poisoning are extraordinarily rare so we certainly wouldn’t be suggesting that we curtail this fine tradition. We’ll definitely be bringing a few sprigs of Ilex ‘Golden King’ into Tythorne Garden Design HQ next Christmas to help us with our festive celebrations.

Tythorne Garden Design provides professional fixed-fee garden design solutions for customers in Grantham, Stamford, Newark and surrounding areas. Let's see how we can help you to enjoy your garden more. Call us on 07900 224 239 or 01529 455 355.

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