The Gene Eisenbeiss Holly of the Year for 2008 is Ilex verticillata 'Maryland Beauty'. This female winterberry was discovered by C. L. Jenkins
in 1930 and registered by
Jenkins and Sons with the Holly Society of America, Inc., in 1970.
'Maryland Beauty' is noted for its abundant crop of tightly clustered, large, bright-red berries that ripen early, are well displayed and cover the entire length of the branches, and hold through the Christmas holiday season. The berried branches are in demand to be displayed alone, included in seasonal arrangements and wreaths, and for display in planters outside the house. This holly has stood the test of time and is still extensively grown for commercial cut holly.
'Maryland Beauty' is compact, with foliage and habit typical of northern winterberry. It grows to approximately 5 ft (1.5 m) in height after ten years; its growth rate is slow to moderate. Pollination is provided by northern-type male winterberry such as I. verticillata 'Jim Dandy' or male winterberry indigenous to the mid-Atlantic region. Pests and diseases are few and infrequent. Flowers are produced on new growth from mid- to late spring so pruning, if necessary, is best done in the winter.
This beautiful deciduous holly is adaptable to many landscape sites from USDA Hardiness Zone 3 to Zone 9. It thrives in wet or boggy, poorly drained soils and light as well as heavy soils but will become chlorotic in high pH soil. 'Maryland Beauty' will grow well in partial shade to full sun although in the mid-west it will need some protection from hot summer afternoon sun. It can be acquired and planted as a containerized or balled and burlapped plant.
A cluster or mass of 'Maryland Beauty' makes a beautiful screen or unclipped hedge; in summer the glossy, deep-green leaves and compact shape are attractive and dense, and in winter the berries provide beautiful color in an otherwise winter-weary landscape; the berries are especially beautiful when they contrast against snow. These hollies are very notable planted against an evergreen background. A solitary plant makes a beautiful focal point in summer or in winter.
'Maryland Beauty' is an American native holly that is suitable for environmental planting. Its berries are a food source for wildlife. It makes an ideal planting for the edges of wetland areas, stormwater management ponds, Chesapeake Bay Critical Areas, and streambank plantings. Its heavy fibrous root system is excellent for soil stabilization.
Ilex verticillata 'Maryland Beauty' combines the qualities of commercial use, landscape aesthetics, and practical environmental applications. These make it a most desirable plant worthy of Holly of the Year.
Ilex verticillata 'Maryland Beauty'