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ILEX ALTACLERENSIS RIPLEY GOLD


Ilex altaclerensis is a cross between the much more common Ilex aquifolium and Ilex perado (also known as the Canary Island Holly). The cross was made in 1835 at Highclere Castle in Hampshire. Over the years several 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, it will withstand temperatures as low as -18C. The leaves are variegated deep green and cream, they lack the spiny appearance of the common holly and are slightly flatter.

Leaves of Ilex altaclarensis 'Ripley Gold'
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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 partial shade although it can still grow well in full sun, especially in cooler parts of the UK. It is quite happy in almost all soil types including loams, clay, sand and sand. On top of that, it will grow well in acid neutral and alkaline soils.

Flowers of Ilex altaclerensis 'Ripley Gold'
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Flowers of Ilex altaclarensis 'Ripley Gold'

What it doesn't like is water-logged soil. Once it is established it will require watering in only severe drought conditions. This is a very hardy 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 7 metres after 25 years. The final spread is about 3 metres and it naturally forms a shape (see picture below) with the base wider than the top if not pruned. You can expect it to live well over a 100 years.

Ilex altaclerensis 'Ripley Gold'
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Ilex altaclarensis 'Ripley Gold'

As far as care goes, its non-existent after the first year or two. When newly planted (autumn is the best time), make sure is doesn't run short of water for a year. After that, leave it alone, let it provide you with vivid, variegated foliage all year round. It is suited to all but the smaller of gardens. For more general information on hollies, see our page here.