When I purchased the tree I knew nothing about the variety, Ilex vomitoria, but was curious to see how it might develop. The trunk was nice, save for large scars in the back, and the leaves were small.
Biggest lesson learned: don’t keep cutting back to nothing. Thinning unnecessary branches and leaving the remaining branches long for a few years helped slow down the tree’s explosive growth.
Here are highlights from the first 10 years of development.
As purchased from Boon, 2004
The apex comes off
After removing the apex
2007 - after letting the tree grow freely for three years
Later that afternoon after cutback by Michael Hagedorn
2009 - two years later and still cutting back to small twigs; it’s time for a new approach
Five months later, June 2009
March, 2010 - this time I left the branches longer at Boon’s suggestion so they could thicken a bit
December, 2010. This approach turned out to be the key - letting the tree grow out, then cutting back to overly long branches.
After cutback later that day the silhouette begins to emerge
After cutback, July, 2012 - the first time the current silhouette is visible
From the side after cutback
As exhibited, January, 2014 - ten years in the making
The process continues - September 2014
After cutback, September 2014