Anyone have experience with ilex Castle Wall?

diggerdee zone 6 CTJuly 11, 2009

Hi guys,

I know I should probably post this on some other forum, but I'm more comfortable here, to begin with, at least.

Does anyone have any experience with ilex Castle Wall? A friend of mine wants something next to her entry way. It has to be 10 feet or under, no more than 4 feet in width, (preferably 3ft - can this be pruned?) evergreen, and is in morning sun/afternoon shade with fairly decent soil. She does not like berries (?!) so I thought of Castle Wall as opposed to Castle Spire.

Just looking for some personal experience with this one before buying...




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My only experience with Castle Wall is that I bought a Castle Spire with a Spire tag on the outside, but a Wall tag on the inside. I returned it for a Spire-Spire. :-)

Perhaps related to Wall...

My Castle Spire is not as hardy as Blue Princess, but would probably be fine in your warmer clime. I wanted a narrow-ish tall-ish for the end of the house, but so far it has so much winter damage above the snow line, its hardly tall. :-(

no berries??? whats up with that? Its not like they self seed and make a mess or anything.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2009 at 4:25PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

LOL, Wendy, I hear ya on the berries! I don't get it either - and she doesn't like blue flowers either! Oh well.

Thanks for your input on the Castle Spire. I would think it would be very similar to the Castle Wall. Is yours recovering from the winter damage?

If we go with the CWs, they will be in a protected area, so I'm hoping that will help in winter.


    Bookmark   July 11, 2009 at 9:18PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

No experience with either Ilex Wall or Spire. But I have to say how unhappy it makes me to get winter damage on a shrub. I have Ilex Prince/Princess and Blue Maid/Blue Stallion. I did put Ilex Prince in my foundation bed in the front, without the berries because I didn't know if they would drop on the walkway and make a mess. Since you have to have the male to produce berries anyway, I thought I might as well use it that way. It has worked out fine, but it is fairly large and wide now. I prefer it that way. It has hardly any winterkill at all. I pull off a few leaves in the spring. It is healthy and shiny and easy. I've tip pruned it a few times to thicken it up and find it easy to prune. I would say though, that my experience with the berries in other parts of the yard, are that I rarely ever see a berry on the ground. They must be relished by the birds. I would say this could be easy to prune into any shape and I don't think it would require frequent pruning with the light conditions you have. Mine is in similar conditions and I prune mine once in the spring.

Have you considered some of the narrow boxwood? There are a few that top off about 10 ft and are about 3ft wide. A new one called 'Green Tower' is not easy to find, but Monrovia puts it out, so you could call them. You might even put two or three together? 'Graham Blandy' is another variety that tops off about 8ft and is 2ft wide supposedly. I wonder if wind could be a problem in the winter? I have two varieties of boxwood on the east side. One never has any winterkill and the other, boxwood sempervirens usually has a little. So I guess it depends on the variety. I've seen another Holly called 'Dragonlady'that is attractive, not sure if there is a male counterpart that doesn't produce berries. It is supposed to get 4-5ft wide and might need a little pruning. The other choice you might consider is a Yew. The Hicksii is supposed to be about the size you are looking for, I think but might require some pruning. Slow growing, easy to maintain, handles winter great.

I've been looking around for a similar size and shape evergreen and just haven't decided which one yet.

Good luck!

Here is a link that might be useful: Boxwood 'Green Tower'

    Bookmark   July 12, 2009 at 3:45AM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

Hi PM2! Thanks for responding. The Blue Prince is really too big. We have a rather narrow space to work with, and wanted something about 3-4 feet in width tops. My friend is not a gardener and wants as low-maintenance as possible. So I'm trying to avoid things like pruning for size, etc. That's why for hollies I was leaning toward the Castle Wall.

I love yews, but think the Hicksii will be too big.

We have indeed considered boxwoods, and she does like them, but they are so expensive, and from what I can tell, rather slow-growing. Which means for immediate effect, you'd have to spend a fortune on a larger specimen. That Green Tower is nice, though.

I'll check out the Dragon Lady holly. I'm having a difficult time with this situation. It's hard to pick out something for someone else to begin with, and I feel doubly hesitant because I really don't know a lot about shrubs, and she is relying on me to make a good decision, so the pressure's on, lol! Additionally, because of that, I don't want to recommend something expensive and then have it die on her. Yikes, that wouldn't be good.

Thanks again for your suggestions. I'm off to see the Dragon Lady!


    Bookmark   July 12, 2009 at 8:35AM
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I used Castle SPire to replace a troubled Dragon Lady, so not sure DL a great candidate either.

I had Dragon Lady for several years and struggled with the winter damage. I even moved DL to a more protected area and less prominent so I could tolerate more damage and pruning, but it eventually got to me. I yanked it out this year.

I remember seeing Green Tower somewhere last year at an outrageous price and at the time I still had hope that Spire would work out, otherwise I might have gotten. I still do have hope that Spire will work out, maybe I will do the dreaded burlap next year.

The Green series are terrific. I have Green Velvet, Green Ice and Green Mountain. Green Mountain might work there too. It does get wider (pyramidal), but I think it will take many years. It seems slow growing. Mine is 2' wide 4' tall after 3-4 years. Not pyramidal yet.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2009 at 9:02AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Well, I guess there has been a legitimate reason why I've not decided on the shrub I need. [g] I've hit those same obstacles along the decision process. I also have Green Mountain, bought at Bluestone last year as a very small shrub. It put on good growth this year and it came through the winter perfect. I bought a second one this spring. I think that is right, that to get one the size you want it, is very expensive, that is why I keep starting small. I have the patience to watch things develop. I really think I end up with a better shrub when it has grown to size in my own garden. I experiment a lot, I make mistakes and end up moving things around a lot, so it helps that they are small. The only way to have your cake and eat it too, is too wait for an end of the year sale and try to get something at 50% off. I have tried that two years in a row, and what I want is usually sold out by then.

I'm glad to hear about your experience with Dragon Lady, terrene and am crossing that off my list. I wasn't clear if you were saying you had winterkill on the Castle Spire?

    Bookmark   July 12, 2009 at 11:34AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

I meant Wendy. Sorry about that [g]

    Bookmark   July 12, 2009 at 12:16PM
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I wonder if the difference between zone 5 and 6 is key? I take care of several Rhode Island gardens with DL and Princess hollies none of which suffer any significant winter damage. Of course, that does not speak to the Castle hollies. Just a thought....

    Bookmark   July 12, 2009 at 1:29PM
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Oh yes, pm, castle spire had a lot of winter damage. It is right next to Blue Princess which comes through all winters 99% unscathed. Castle Spire and Dragon Lady have both had problem years repeatedly.

But again, this is in MY colder spot. Sometimes they are optimistically rated for Z5, but they are truly Z6, so you guys should be fine with either.

Note that we speak of "winter damage" but its really spring damage. I often do a big "whew" in March, only to be disapppointed in April as the spring sun is what really does them in. I have tried wiltpruf but not religously and maybe not getting the timing just right. If we have rain, I probably get comfortable and skip it.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2009 at 2:25PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

LOL, PM2, there is definitely a legitimate reason for not making a decision yet! I've been trying to decide on something for this spot for three months... so far! And it's harder when deciding for someone else.

If it was just me, I'd take the plunge and see how it went. When it's for someone else, especially someone who is not really a gardener, they don't always understand the problems/concerns of each situation, and if you make a recommendation, they expect to buy, plop it in the ground, and be done with. If it tanks or doesn't do well, and they are out the money, they don't want to hear any excuses.

Maybe I'll make a run to some local nurseries and see if they carry Castle Wall and see what they think.

BTW, PM2, I also bought a few Green Mountains from Bluestone, and they are doing quite well. I don't have a problem also for the most part waiting for things to grow, especially in a bed, but I think for a front-and-center spot like next to the front door, my friend does need a bigger specimen. I think an 8-inch boxwood next to the door would look pretty darn silly, lol!

Who knows? Maybe by the time we make a decision, my Green Mountains will be big enough and she can plant those, lol.


    Bookmark   July 12, 2009 at 4:14PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Wendy, I had problems with an arborvitae this spring and it was as you said, it managed to get through the winter fine and had problems in April. It didn't even look too bad the end of March. I haven't had winterburn with anything else really. I often try to choose plants that are hardy at least to zone 5, because I figure some winter we will have a zone 5 winter. [g]

Dee, you have my complete sympathy. I definitely can tolerate my own disappointment with a plant better than if I advised or chose one for someone else and it ends up a disappointment. And you are so right, that non-gardeners have such different expectations. Even as a young gardener, I had very different expectations than I do now. Yes, the front foundation is a different ballgame. All of my small Bluestone plant material is in the back. :-)

    Bookmark   July 12, 2009 at 5:12PM
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Gee, I could swear I already posted this... must ahve forgotten to hit the submit button.

Anyway, I believe that there's a beautiful Castle Wall at Avant Gardens, near New Bedford, at the front of the house. The owner doesn't wrap it in burlap, but he did tell us that he wraps branches of other upright evergreens with twine in the winter. It allows the snow to fall off while protecting the branches from heavy ice loads. Seems like a better way to go, although of course it doesn't prevent winter burn - there was no burn on the CW when I was there in ... April, I think.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2009 at 10:01PM
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thats good news. New Bedford should be similar conditions to Dee, right?. it sounds like all you need to do now is find a CW and give the homeowner your research and low-risk warning. Worst case, even if there was any spring burn, it would be likely be minor and rare.

As far as snow load, the Ilex mesaerves seem to handle it fine. I use the twine method on Ilex glabra and I once had a tall narrow juniper that needed similar treatment.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2009 at 7:15AM
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