GENEVA, Ohio — In the northeast corner of Ohio, Paul Hanslik found his niche. He grows holly trees. Lots and lots of holly trees.
"We have about fifty species of holly. Anything that can be grown in the northern states, we grow it," says Hanslik, owner of Holly Ridge Nursery.
It's the largest holly tree wholesaler in the nation.
For more than 30 years, Paul has raised his nursery stock from cuttings, the snipped tips of mature male and female trees. He says they are a lot like people. When they're about two-years-old, the trees are "teenagers" and according to Hanslick, they're "very gangly and they don't have much form yet, but as adults, they're extremely handsome."
Big, beautiful trees with a very important trait, especially here in Ohio. Deer hate them, so they make great landscape greenery. They thing about holly trees is you need to be patient with them. According to Paul, "it may be six to seven years before they measure three to four feet," but the wait will be worth it.
Holly trees are steeped in both Christian and Pagan traditions and are said to possess magical properties. Ancient Romans exchanged holly boughs as a gesture of good will and the Druids planted holly to ward off evil spirits. The tree is also mentioned in many Christmas carols.
In one section of Holly Ridge, Paul has what he calls his "Sacred Patch." It's a 30-year-old stand of deciduous holly, also known as winterberry. Along with clippings from other nursery plants, Paul's assistant Alex makes holiday wreathes, which they sell at Shaker Square Market on Saturdays.
Paul has made the holly his mission and wants people to know there is so much more to this beautiful tree than meets the eye.