Ilex crenata 'Golden Gem'
Credit: Frank Organ
The vast majority of holly species are evergreen and deer-resistant. It’s a large group of shrubby plants with sizes to fit any garden. They are known for their prickly leaves and red berries, which persist well into winter. There are several species native to the eastern U.S., including American holly (I. opaca) and yaupon holly (I. vomitoria). Pictured here is a variety of Japanese holly (I. crenata) known as ‘Little Gem’, which grows 8 to 12 feet tall and is hardy down to Zone 3.
Another great alternative to Box is a member of the holly family — Japanese Holly (Ilex crenata), zones 5-9. Ilex crenata is great as an evergreen in small gardens. It is slow growing and, left unclipped, has small, shiny black fruit in the autumn that contrasts so well against its tiny, glossy leaves. My choice, though, is the golden variety Ilex crenata 'Golden Gem'. Leave it unclipped for a wonderful flat-topped golden sphere that provides wonderful color throughout the year — especially in winter and spring