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The Other Memphis Belle

Deciduous holly
Another cultivar of deciduous holly in Overton Park

Overton Park was already home to a tribute to the Memphis Belle, with a monument in Veterans Plaza honoring both the famous plane and the woman who inspired it, Margaret Polk.  This week, a different kind of memorial was added just a few steps away, with the planting of three ‘Memphis Belle’ deciduous holly trees.  (Deciduous hollies lose their leaves in winter, as opposed to the more familiar evergreen hollies, which retain leaves all year.)

Barbara Taylor, a landscape contractor who operates Taylored Lawns & Gardens, donated the hollies, which she “discovered” in the early 1990s.  As Barbara, who is a past president of the Holly Society of America Inc., was photographing a group of hollies at the post office on Prescott Street, she noticed that one plant looked different than she expected.  This plant had a distinct weeping habit rather than the more upright form.  She convinced the property owner to let her have the plant in exchange for a male and female “regular-formed” holly plant (which are still on-site today).

She chose the name ‘Memphis Belle’ for this cultivar for three reasons–the most obvious being to honor Margaret Polk, for whom she had worked as a gardener.  “I also wanted to name her this to honor my father’s service in World War II with the U.S. Air Force,” Barbara adds.  “And third, when I moved to Memphis from South Florida, I thought this was such a beautiful city with all its large trees.”

Barbara Taylor

The three ‘Memphis Belle’ hollies planted in Overton Park this week are the last that will be propagated in Memphis; the grower who had been cultivating them sold the stock to a Georgia nursery due to the local preference for evergreen hollies.  The plants will have a welcoming home in Overton Park, however, because several other deciduous varieties are already present in the park and will help to pollinate them.  “It’s natural to plant this holly near the Margaret Polk statue,” Barbara says.  “The plant is a native which should be planted in this lovely setting of Overton Park.”

Because the hollies are deciduous, they have no leaves at the moment, so they blend right into the landscape.  But with good pollination and regular watering, Barbara hopes to see them bloom around May of this year.

“The Mid-South is very blessed to be able to grow a wide range of holly species, evergreen and deciduous,” Barbara says.  We’re grateful that she’s brought a new variety into Overton Park for our visitors to enjoy year after year.

If you’d like to get in touch with Barbara about your lawn or garden landscaping project, give her a call at 901.743.4518.