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Sunday, December 7, 1997 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Water, `Holly Dip' Can Help Your Greens Last

Dorothy Doyle of Molbak's Greenhouse & Nursery in Woodinville offers these tips:

-- Cut holly will last about a week indoors, a little longer if put in water. For the most attractive holly, wait until close to your function to bring it into the house.

-- Use of an anti-transpirant or anti-desiccant, once known as holly dip, will stop holly from losing moisture after it's cut. Most cut holly purchased from nurseries has already been dipped. If you cut your own at home, products such as Wilt-Pruf can be purchased at nurseries and garden-supply stores to prolong its indoor life.

-- Holly will last for weeks or longer outdoors on a wreath or other decoration.

The only risk comes if the temperature plummets to the 20s or below, in which case the berries will fall off. More information on holly

The most commonly cultivated holly in the U.S. is Ilex aquifolium, commonly known as English holly. Popular varieties include `San Gabriel,' which bears berries without pollination; `Sparkler,' an upright plant that produces a heavy crop of berries at a young age; `Ferox Variegata' or Hedgehog, which has twisted, prickly leaves with no berries; `Van Tol,' which features smooth, glossy green leaves and large berries; `Gold Coast,' which has bright yellow edging on its leaves; `Aureomarginata,' whose leaves are edged with gold; and `Argenteomarginata,' with leaves edged in silver. (Source: "Sunset Western Garden Book," Lane Publishing.)

Most large nurseries carry holly trees. About 24 varieties are commercially cultivated in the U.S. For more information consult:

-- "The Manual of Woody Landscape Plants" by Michael Dirr (Stipes Publishing).

-- "The Hillier Manual of Trees and Shrubs" (David & Charles).

-- "American Horticultural Society's Encyclopedias of Garden Plants," Christopher Brickell, editor (Macmillan Publishing).

The Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle includes a collection of hollies. Or, contact the Holly Society of America, 11318 West Murdock, Wichita, KS, 67212-6609.

Copyright (c) 1997 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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