Holly – Bent Over from Snow

Q: As you can see, my Burford hollies are gone.  There were 2 groups on each side of the yard with 3 trees in each group that I think were original to the house, planted around 1976. I would like to keep an evergreen for privacy purposes. Do you have any good suggestion for substitutes?

A: I am not so sure all hope is lost. I grant there are lots of bent and broken limbs in the shrubs. But Burford holly recovers from damage extremely fast. Unless you have a real need to replace them I would simply take out all the broken limbs and then consider how to prune it to reduce the size enough to match the size of your house. It looks to me that you let them grow too big to begin with and they needed to be severely pruned whether the storm hurt them or not.

Your hollies have an enormous root system, which means they will sprout vigorously wherever they are pruned. In my experience it’s best to prune 4 feet below where you want the holly to be in height. The resulting sprouts can be tipped a couple of times to make a nice dense coverage of leaves.

Another thing to consider is that Burford hollies have wide-ranging roots that will sprout in several places around your landscape if you remove the original plant. The sprouts will be a real nuisance to control in coming years.

Give hard thought to whether replacing the shrubs makes sense.