Ask Burton: Q: I had an old sweetgum in my front yard that’s given up the ghost this year so we had it removed. I’d like an upright smaller tree to go in the yard now. The sweetgum almost had the shape I wanted, but it was still a little too big and the spiny seed pods were not a favorite! Our front yard is small and I’d like a small tree out there with that upright kind of shape, but something that would stay in the twenty foot range. I also don’t care for magnolias, as it feels like we’re always picking up leaves, so do you have any ideas for a smaller evergreen tree?

A: Upright, small tree sized, not too wide, evergreen, and not a magnolia….This is a job for a large, tree-formed holly.

Hollies come in a wonderful range of sizes and habits, and there are many which will do exactly what you want in your front yard.   Look for tree-form or “patio tree” hollies which have had their lower foliage removed at a young age to ensure a single clear trunk.  There are several types that will grow to the height and size you want including Nellie R. Stevens, East Palatka, and Eagleston.  These hollies will have a taller-than-wide, pyramidal shape that will do what you are asking for.

Hollies as a general rule are tough plants in our area, adaptable to a wide range of sun and shade exposures, and will need only a little maintenance and care in the future.  We have many patio tree hollies in stock, so come on down and pick one with a texture you like!