Many of you have large blue Meserveae hollies (Ilex x meserveae) in your gardens, with many shrubs heavily loaded with red berries this year. The native American holly, Ilex opaca, is also fruiting now. Please plan to use holly branches in your holiday decorating! However, be aware that the cut branches will last only 7-10 days indoors before dropping leaves. I suggest that you cut them on the day before entertaining, essentially at the last minute.
Pick a dry day when temperatures are above freezing, without wind or strong sunlight that might cause excessive drying out. Choose the best quality branches, free from scratches, blemishes, and tears. Berries should be well-colored. Move your cuttings into a cool, moist area and wash off dust and any other contaminants in a tub or deep sink. When drip-dried, you can use holly branches to decorate mantels, doorways, tables, and to make centerpieces.
Holly will last a bit longer if branches are placed in a vase of water or if small pieces are floated in a large bowl of water. The decorating possibilities are many!
If we have already sprayed your holly with anti-desiccant to protect it from browning out over winter, you can still cut branches. These will last longer indoors than unsprayed branches but will be a bit shiny and sticky to handle. Remove the stickiness from your gloves or hands with Citrasolv, a natural cleanser. Outdoors, the anti-desiccant breaks down naturally in the warming temperatures of spring, so this may also occur indoors with central heating.
Note that the best time to prune these hollies is in the earliest part of spring. At that time, we will thin and shape the plants to provide a new template for their growth and fruiting in 2021!