Planted under the careful eye of Bernheim's first horticulturist, Buddy Hubbuch, and named in his honor in the spring of 2000, the holly collection has evolved into one of the finest in North America. At the present time, the collection contains over 400 specimens representing more than 200 individual taxa from all across the northern hemisphere. Within the collection visitors will find 176 American Holly (Ilex opaca) cultivars, Japanese Holly (I. crenata), varieties of deciduous hollies (I. decidua, I. verticillata, I. serrata,), and varieties of Inkberry (I. glabra), along with many unique hybrids.
The collection exhibits the tremendous diversity that exists within the genus Ilex. There are tree forms, large and small shrubs, some approaching ground cover status, and others as upright spires (consider the aptly named I. crenata 'Sky Pencil'). Some will grow 3 feet per year, while others only manage an inch or two. Leaves are evergreen, deciduous, spined or smooth-edged. Fruit on female plants ranges from white, to yellow, orange and many shades of red. There are hollies that are at home on dry sandy dunes, and others happier in low wet areas. Certainly within the hollies there is a variety for almost every garden use. The collection offers something beautiful to visit every month of the year.
As with all the horticultural collections at Bernheim, the holly collection serves several purposes. It is an important resource that serves as the basis for long-term evaluation and research aimed at identifying the best plants for this region's landscapes. In addition, the collections serve a valuable conservation function; preserving unique germplasm representing the breadth of physical and genetic traits that exist within the holly family. The maturing collections enable professional and amateur horticulturists alike, to compare the relative landscape potential of the many varieties represented. This irreplaceable resource also serves as a source of propagation material to help bring new and superior plant varieties into the marketplace.
Within the collection are several holly varieties selected and introduced to the landscape trade by Kentuckians. 'Marilyn' was selected and named by Buddy Hubbuch in honor of his wife. It is an exquisite, fine-textured evergreen form with brilliant red-orange fruit in autumn and winter. Ilex opaca 'Judy Evans' was introduced by famed Louisville-area nurseryman Theodore Klein. This cultivar was selected for excellent quality foliage and vigorous growth. It was awarded the coveted Theodore Klein Plant Award in 1999.