February 8
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Plant Genus of the family Aquifoliaceae

Genus Description Cultivation
Ilex This widely distributed genus contains more than 400 species of evergreen or deciduous trees, shrubs and climbers. They mostly grow in woodland in temperate, subtropical and tropical regions of the world. There are even epiphytic species native to Borneo. Used for its foliage and berries since Roman times, holly has long been associated with Northern Hemisphere festivals celebrating the winter solstice, as well as Christmas. The wood of some species is used for veneers and musical instruments. In some countries the leaves are used as tea substitutes or in tisanes. Male and female flowers usually grow on separate trees, thus plants of both sexes are required for the production of berries. CULTIVATION: North American hollies prefer neutral to acid soil, while Asian and European species are less fussy and will grow in most soils as long as they are moderately fertile, well drained and humus-rich. Green hollies will also grow in part or full shade (but not deep shade). Most variegated hollies require full sun to show their variegation to best effect. Propagate by half-hardened cuttings in late summer or early autumn. Seed can be sown in autumn but patience is needed as germination may take 2 or 3 years. Tender species need greenhouse protection in winter in colder climates.
Nemopanthus Native to eastern North America, this is a genus of 2 deciduous species, closely related to holly (Ilex). They are cultivated for their ornamental bright red berries and attractive autumn foliage. CULTIVATION: Grow in moist, well-drained, humus-rich soil in sun or part-shade. Fully to marginally frost hardy, they should be pruned to shape when young. Propagate from seed or cuttings.
Vaccinium This genus of around 450 species of evergreen and deciduous shrubs, small trees and vines includes the blueberries, cranberries and huckleberries as well as the delightfully named farkleberry, whortleberry and bilberry. They occur over much of the Northern Hemisphere with a few species found in South Africa. Their main features are small but colorful and/or edible fruits, often very tasty, and sometimes vivid autumn foliage. Their flowers too can be attractive, usually small, urn-shaped and downward-facing, carried singly or in clusters. The leaves are usually simple, oval to lance-shaped, often pointed at the tip and sometimes serrated around their edges. CULTIVATION: As with most plants of the erica family, Vaccinium prefers cool, moist, humus-rich soil that is acidic and well drained with shelter from the hottest summer sun. Some species thrive in boggy ground in the wild, but in cultivation the type of conditions preferred by rhododendrons and camellias tend to give the best results. Many Vaccinium form dense thickets of stems and can be cut back hard to encourage compact growth. The shrubbier species should be pruned to shape: after flowering if the fruit is not required, otherwise at harvest. Propagate from seed, cuttings, layers and in some cases division.

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