Pride Nursery - Butler, PA Orlando Pride Nurseries
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The Impact of A Nurseryman

Pride Nurseries ... Fields of Evergreens and Holly
The Impact Of A Nurseryman

Sometimes people referred to Orlando Pride as "Mr. Holly," but he never minded. He spent almost six decades growing and testing that ancient tree on his Butler experimental farm, and became one of the only 10 hybridizers in the entire country.

His romance with holly came about by accident. As a pre-med student at Penn State, a fraternity brother happened to be studying landscape design. He showed Mr. pride his first American holly growing wild in the mountains of West Virginia. From then on, that was it.


Mr. Pride forgot about a career in medicine. "You should see me fuss over a tree or plant that's sick. How do you think I could have survived a lifetime as a doctor?"

Seventy years ago, Mr. Pride couldn't understand why holly trees didn't show up in home gardens. He still couldn't understand why his favorite tree did not become popular sooner.

We've got a hardy variety now. And the holly is lush and green all winter long - with red berries. These stay on all winter until the robins come back in the spring - then you should see them feast. They love to nest in holly too - the sharp leaves are natural defense against cats.

Mr. Pride's city garden in Butler had stunning holly trees, some the result of the original seeds given to him years ago by his fraternity brother.

He spent much time at his farm five miles south of town, where he cultivated rows of the glossy green holy in different stages of growth. He specialized in his own strains, carefully developed from the original rugged West Virginia type. He called them Grace hybrid hollies - named for his wife, Grace Elizabeth (Betty) Pride. He developed 16 varieties

One thing holly taught the quiet, soft spoken horticulturist was infinite patience. "Nothing hurries holly," he said. "It's slow growing, but strong. And some varieties have produced trees 85 feet tall and three or four centuries old."

Such magnificent specimens were in Mr. Pride's dreams, no doubt, when he planted his 20,000 seedlings years ago on his grandfather's farm, which grew into Pride Nursery.


"We fought off the mice and birds but two years later we had weather 32 degrees below zero. I'll never forget walking along that field looking at all those frozen hollies. We were wiped out - all but 2000 - and of these only 25 were a good strong healthy green - well shaped, too."

These 25 survivors formed the basis for Mr. Pride's hybridizing work. He began corresponding with holly experts all over the world, and even imported holly seed from the most northern parts of Norway. The idea was to get a holly that could stand our severe winters. English holly doesn't do well here because it likes the slower seasonal changes and milder weather in England. It also loves foggy weather.

There might be something to the theory that producing a fine holly under conditions of complete neglect might provide a hardier plant, but the time element makes the whole thing difficult. Orlando Pride took almost 40 years in developing holly hybrids. That's probably one reason there haven't been more workers in the holly vineyard.

It takes about 15 years to see whether a hybridized holly is going to amount to anything. But once a good variety is discovered, you have something of value. Mr. Pride referred to his "Clarissa" as one of the surviving plants from the big freeze of 1933. It was one of the seedlings that didn't do so well. But we left in in the field and it seemed to stand still for years. Then we transplanted it with some others into a heavily fertilized field and the change was remarkable.

It just came to life.

Cuttings from this original tree went to the U.S. National Arboretum and were seen by Dr. Richard Meriam of Harvard University. He thought it to be one of the finest hollies of its type. Just imagine if it had been overlooked. Mr. Pride grew practically every kind of holly in his experimental gardens, but many could not stand our harsh winters. Butler's Western PA temperatures are as varied, and can be as severe, as temperatures into Maine and Canada.


Mr. Pride devoted his life to hybridizing holly because he loved the outdoors and it satisfied him to work on something he knew beautified the world. Hybridizing was exciting as he never knew what the result would be. Holly is an ancient plant with a long and exciting history. Mr. Pride felt it shouldn't be neglected in his current and commendable rebirth of interest in home landscaping. The ancient Druids of the British Isles considered holly sacred and there were 500 holly varieties in the world - and many opportunities for legends. Only between 20 or 30 hollies grow in our country.

A beginner in holly soon learns that only the female tree produces berries. And the only way to distinguish the plant is to wait until the tree blossoms. It is necessary to have a male tree nearby to have the female tree bear berries. It's not very complicated. Once a holly gets a good start, it's no fussier than other plants. Pride Nursery recommends neutral to slightly acid soils, well drained, good fertilizer and mulch when necessary. The important thing is to get a holly that grows in your neck of the woods. Don't expect a southern holly to like our changeable winter weather. The time for transplanting is summer or fall. There isn't any reason to restrict your enjoyment of holly to the Christmas season. You can have its beauty in your garden year round.

145 Weckerly Road, Butler, PA 16002
(724) 283-0962