A Reversal of Fortunes

Carissa holly that once was in center of planting has reverted to the original, a dwarf Chinese holly. This has obviously been underway for years. Click image for larger view.

Sometimes you order a burger and fries in the drive-through and you drive off with grilled chicken and a fruit cup. The grandson isn’t pleased. You didn’t get what you ordered.

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It happens in horticulture as well. Some plant selections aren’t of stable varieties and they soon make it known.

While I was admiring the autumn sage this past Sunday (see story this issue), I noticed a Carissa holly that had gone off the tracks.

Carissa reverting back to dwarf Chinese holly. Want to see this one live and in person? In front of Best Buy in Allen, Central at US75. I’ve been watching it happen for 6 or 7 years. Click image for larger view.

This certainly isn’t the first time that I’ve seen a Carissa holly revert to its dwarf Chinese “roots.” In his great book Hollies, the late (and really great!) Fred Galle listed Carissa as having been found as a bud mutation in Wight Wholesale Nursery’s plantings of dwarf Chinese hollies. It was registered by the Holly Society of America in April 1972, and it has gone on to become one of the most-used dwarf hollies ever.

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But every once in a while, it will revert to its mama and you’ll see a branch of prickly leaves mixed in with a plant of single-spined foliage. Eventually the dwarf Chinese holly growth will overtake the Carissa. It’s stronger. That’s what has happened to the plant in my photo.

This was sent to our Q&A section of e-gardens two months ago by Shawn S. in Prosper. He’s been hit with a double dose. Variegated privet has reverted to green, as has golden euonymus.

The same thing will happen to golden euonymus. It reverts to solid green. And variegated privet. And, more recently, Sunshine ligustrum.

You can already see the green euonymus overtaking the colorful golden euonymus. This is what happens when a variegated form reverts to its green mama.

When this starts to happen your only way of dealing with it is to prune out the reverse-mutant wood with lopping shears before it has a chance to grow and become dominant. Given even a year or two it will probably be too late. By then it will usually have caused the “good” growth to have become misshapen, making it much harder to salvage the original look that you wanted.

Your takeaway? Get out the loppers and get rid of the odd stuff.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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