Virginia L. Morell was an avid gardener, president of the American Holly Society, Arboretum Foundation board member, and volunteer at the Washington Park Arboretum. Virginia and Jean L. Haigh started the Arboretum ‘Saplings’ Program, which they ran for two years. This program was taken over by UW Botanic Gardens Youth and Family Education and now serves thousands of school children each year. Virginia was friends of staff at the USDA Research Center in Washington D.C. and every time she went to Washington, she brought back a new holly and gave it to the Arboretum. All of these selections were donated to the Arboretum by Virginia, and are located in the Ilex Collection.
(Special thanks to Dr. John Wott for additional anecdotes about Mrs. Morell.)
1) Ilex aquifolium ‘Lichtenthalii’ Narrowleaf English Holly
- This English holly cultivar is much admired for its slender, twisted leaves and elegant brick-red berries.
- This rare cultivar’s unique foliage and compact form make it an excellent addition and focal point to gardens. Although Ilex aquifolium (English Holly) is invasive in the Pacific Northwest, this cultivar generally produces few, if any, berries.
2) Ilex crenata ‘Dwarf Pagoda’ Dwarf Pagoda Japanese Holly
- Introduced by Dr. Elwin Orton of Rutgers University, ‘Dwarf Pagoda’ is an incredibly slow growing holly with tiny and shiny dark green leaves and congested growth.
- As it matures, it has an artistic and sculptural quality that only improves with age.
3) Ilex x ‘Mary Nell’ Mary Nell Holly
- Ilex x ‘Mary Nell’ is a cross of Ilex cornuta ‘Burfordii’ and Ilex pernyi ‘Red Delight’, then crossed with Ilex latifolia.
- This is an upright pyramidal holly with distinctive dark foliage and bright red fruit. It is purported to be quite tolerant of drought.
4) Ilex x ‘Rock Garden’ Dwarf Spiny Holly
- Ilex x ‘Rock Garden’ is a complex hybrid of Ilex aquipernyi (itself a hybrid of Ilex aquifolium and Ilex pernyi) and Ilex integra.
- Although this plant is the offspring of full size hollies, Ilex x ‘Rock Garden’ is a diminutive female holly with shiny, deep green leaves and a dense, globose habit. Since it matures to less than one foot tall, ‘Rock Garden’ is an ideal choice for rock gardens, small gardens and bonsai.
5) Ilex vomitoria ‘Will Fleming’ Will’s Upright Yaupon Holly
- The plant was traditionally used by Native Americans to make an infusion containing caffeine. It is among a very few plants endemic to North America that produce caffeine.
- This is a very unusual narrow upright form of this versatile evergreen. It was found in East Texas by Will Fleming.