Louis Raymond experiments in his own gardens like

a mad scientist, searching out plants that most people have

never seen before & figuring out how to make them perform.- The Boston Globe

…Louis Raymond ensures that trees can grow in Brooklyn…

or just about any other place where concrete consumes

the dirt and skyscrapers shield the sunshine.- USA Today


NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.


NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.


New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.


Plant Profiles

Golden Milkboy holly



All kinds of hollies have multi-colored leaves, but mostly around the edge.  Here's one that (usually) keeps that color in the center.  'Golden Milkboy' is one of the brightest of the English hollies, with variegation of the majority of the leaf surface.  Plus, the leaves themselves are at the large end of the range for hollies.  All in all, this is a shrub that packs a lot of color.


It thrives in-ground only where the Winters are (alas) milder than southern New England: Sheltered gardens in Manhattan, say, or right out there in the middle of the lawn in Seattle or London.  Then again, because 'Golden Milkboy' is a popular holly everywhere it's hardy, gardeners there aren't nearly as likely to stop and marvel at it.  They'd have to stop every other block.


But in New England, English holly is strictly a container plant, with such profuse and "juicy" foliage that it well deserves all the "If only it were hardy here!" moans.  I've got a pair of 'Golden Milkboy', and all Summer long they bookend a container line-up of agapanthus, coprosma, and aloysia.  A pair of restios share the bookending duty; that's Giant Cape Rush to the left of this 'Milkboy'. 




If I were gardening in San Francisco, I could grow this whole line-up right in the ground.  Sigh.  But, then again, so could all the neighbors. 



Here's how to grow this dramatic broadleaved evergreen:


Latin Name

Ilex aquifolium 'Golden Milkboy'

Common Name

'Golden Milkboy' English holly


Aquifoliaceae, the Holly family.

What kind of plant is it?

Broadleaved-evergreen shrub.


Zones 7 - 9.  


Upright and irregularly conical.

Rate of Growth


Size in ten years

Twelve feet tall and five feet wide, but only where securely hardy.  Smaller and slower when grown in a container.


Dense, shiny, and stiff.

Grown for

its foliage: The large and glossy evergreen leaves are deep green at the edge, with lighter and lighter sectors as you go to the center:  Pale green then butter yellow.  (Judging from the pictures, some individuals can have foliage that's creamy white in the center.) 


its rarity: In the climates it prefers, those with cool, wet Winters and sunny but not unforgivingly sweltering Summers—the Pacific Northwest or Great Britain—fancy English hollies like 'Golden Milkboy' are easy, and so popular as to be routine.  They are notable oddities elsewhere.   

Flowering season

Holly flowers are small and white, and only showy at close-range; they open in the Spring.  'Golden Milkboy' is a male, so flowers well but never produces red berries.  Thank goodness the foliage alone is worth it!


Sun and acid, good-to-wonderful soil that is moisture-retentive but well-draining, especially in the Winter.  From Virginia south, 'Golden Milkboy' can be planted in fully exposed positions; north of the Potomac River, though, shelter from Winter wind is essential, as is planting on a slope so that cold air is always just passing through instead of settling in for the night.

How to handle it

For the quickest and most-dense growth, plant only in full sun and where it has good drainage.  This is not the plant for heavy soil or poor drainage.  Groom in early Spring to remove any stem tips and foliage that might have gotten Winter-killed.  Hollies sprout eagerly in response to pruning, so there's no worry that the bush won't put out new growth.  Compost in late Winter, plus add any acid-fostering fertilizer, e.g., Holly Tone.


If you'd like your 'Golden Milkboy' pruned to hold sharp geometry all Winter, do another pruning in early Fall.  The bush won't sprout new growth until the following Spring.  Don't prune in Summer, though, which would probably inspire new growth that won't have time to harden sufficiently to survive the coming Winter. 


Because hollies accept pruning so readily, they are good candidates for hedges or even topiary.  (Their branches are a bit stiff to be making them into espaliers.)  Unpruned and in full sun, they grow full to the ground—and, in fact, they look terrific when planted with nothing more than a large sweep of very low groundcover, liriope, say, which won't shade out any of the lowest foliage or branches.  They are full enough to be their own groundcover, too, so it's possible to grow hollies as "lawn features", i.e., planted with lawn grass all around them.  Such fully-exposed siting is realistic, though, only where they are truly hardy.  


The stiff growth and bulky profile of happy hollies makes them great partners for plants with feathery growth and a wind-happy habit:  Ornamental grasses and full-sun-tolerant ferns.  Just don't plant them so close to the holly that they could create shade that would, eventually, open up sparse areas in the holly's foliage. 


In containers, remember that 'Golden Milkboy' enjoys mild temperate climates, not subtropical or tropical ones.  It needs coolness in the Winter, even light freezes, not the always-above-60-degrees life of a tropical greenhouse or by a sunny window in your house.  In my experience, containered English hollies do better when overwintered in an unheated greenhouse (which, in my southern New England climate, provides sometimes-below-freezing-but-totally-out-of-the-wind Zone 7 conditions they'd experience in, say, Williamsburg, VA).


This exceptional holly is only truly hardy down to Zone 7—and the warmer part of Zone 7 at that—so you'll need to grow it in a container if you garden where it's cooler.


While hollies can be afflicted with an enormous range of pests, thriving hollies generally aren't bothered.  Do right by your hollies and, if at all possible, they'll do right for you.  Check out which hollies seem to do well in your locale; chances are there will be many to choose from.


There are hundreds of species of holly, and many hundreds more cultivars and hybrids.  With mature sizes from rock-garden buns to forty-foot trees, foliage in almost any possible color combination of dark and light green, yellow, cream, and even white; leaves that can be small and smooth, large and smooth, or variously prickly or thorny; leaves that can be evergreen or deciduous; berries in every color from white to yellow to orange to red to black; and hardiness from Zone 9 down to, variously, Zone 7, 6, 5, and 4, there's a holly—probably many of them—for any garden.  With holly's universal comfort with regular pruning, no matter how strict or extensive, there's an entire additional spectrum of options for all of them, from hedges to topiary to bonsai. 





By cuttings or grafting.

Native habitat

Ilex aquifolium is native to the British Isles and Europe.

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