ILEX ALTACLERENSIS RIPLEY GOLD
Article by DavidMarks
Ilex altaclerensis is a cross between the much more common Ilexaquifolium and Ilex perado (also known as the Canary Island Holly). Thecross was made in 1835 at Highclere Castle in Hampshire. Over the yearsseveral cultivars have been created including Ilex altaclerensis ‘Ripley Gold’.
This is a small evergreen tree which is fully hardy in all parts of the UK, itwill withstand temperatures as low as -18C. The leaves are variegated deep greenand cream, they lack the spiny appearance of the common holly and are slightlyflatter.
Leaves of Ilex altaclarensis ‘Ripley Gold’
In April time the buds appear and these open to small and not very noticeable white flowers – see the picture below. This shrub is definitely not bought for its flowers. Also the berries produced (if a male holly is nearby) are distinctly unimpressive and rather dull. If you choose this shrub you will be growing it for the variegated foliage, leaf form and hardiness. It does look impressive.
The best position for this shrub, in common with other hollies, is in partialshade although it can still grow well in full sun, especially in cooler parts ofthe UK. It is quite happy in almost all soil types including loams, clay, sandand sand. On top of that, it will grow well in acid neutral and alkaline soils.
Flowers of Ilex altaclarensis ‘Ripley Gold’
What it doesn’t like is water-logged soil. Once it is establishedit will require watering in only severe drought conditions. This is a veryhardy and adaptable shrub which will give of its best in exposed and sheltered positions.
This is a slow growing tree / shrub which will reach a height of about 7metres after 25 years. The final spread is about 3 metres and it naturally formsa shape (see picture below) with the base wider than the top if not pruned. Youcan expect it to live well over a 100 years.
Ilex altaclarensis ‘Ripley Gold’
As far as care goes, its non-existent after the first year or two. When newlyplanted (autumn is the best time), make sure is doesn’t run short of water for ayear. After that, leave it alone, let it provide you with vivid, variegatedfoliage all year round. It is suited to all but the smaller of gardens. For moregeneral information on hollies, see our page here.