Emiel de Jong – Ilex Magic!
“Some of the Ilex plants in Emiel’s nursery are between 50 and 60 years old! Isn’t that amazing?”
Emiel de Jong is an Ilex grower located in Boskoop, and is known for growing amazing quality Ilex in a variety of colours. On the nursery of 10 hectares, Emiel grows seven different varieties of Ilex Verticillata. Everybody knows Ilex for their colourful berries, but before you get these amazing branches in your hands, they have had quite the unusual journey!
Ilex are a shrub that grow outside in the field. Only the female plants produce berries and they need their male counterparts in their vicinity to do that. So there are typically always a few male plants planted in between the females. Every year during springtime, a local beekeeper installs hives on the grounds of the nursery, so that the bees will aid with the pollination. When the plants develop their berries, nets are installed, to make sure birds can’t get to them.
The Ilex branches that we work with are already two years old! When they grow on the plant, the stem only develops leaves in the first year. It’s during the second year that it starts developing side branches. In the summer, the plant flowers and from those flowers it develops its berries. These start developing around August and from September on, the branches are cut.
The traditional red Ilex is usually only available around Christmas, and before that there are yellow and orange varieties available, like Golden Verboom, Oudijk’s Orange, Ilexia Julia, and Ilexia Victoria, which look amazing in Autumn bouquets and arrangements!
After cutting, the branches are hosed down with water and packed in plastic, and left for at least one to two weeks, depending on the variety. During this time the leaves will turn black and fall off. Then the branches are sorted and packed, and made ready for transport to the auction.
New Ilex varieties are not easy to come by. Unlike with other flowers and plants, they are not cross bred. Sometimes an existing shrub gives branches with berries in new colours, and from these cuttings the new variety is grown. This is a process that can take up to 15 years before there are enough plants and stems developed for a variety to be introduced to the market!
Ilex are perennials that can last a very long time! Some of the Ilex plants in Emiel’s nursery are between 50 and 60 years old! Isn’t that amazing? The plants also don’t really need any form of fertilizer. They just need water! It’s not necessary to move them or refresh the soil. To counter plagues and disease organic pest control is used. In short, Ilex is a product that is rather environmentally friendly!
You can find these gorgeous Ilex varieties in our web shop!
- Use a clean and sharp knife or cutters to cut the stems at an angle.
- Remove any excess leaves or berries, so they don’t touch the water.
- Ilex don’t need flower food. Just tab water and a clean vase! Of course, if you work them into an arrangement with other flowers, it’s okay to use flower food.
- Be aware of berries that have fallen off, they can leave stains.
- Ilex have a vase life between 7-21 days.