Christmas would not be Christmas with out holly. We deck the halls with its prickly bows and use it in wreaths and desk centrepieces.
I used to shove a holly twig into our sizzling, steaming Christmas pudding. Because it caught fireplace, from the brandy flambe, the youngsters would shriek with delight.
Quickly after New 12 months’s Day, holly tends to be forgotten. That is a disgrace, particularly for such a flexible plant group. Hollies are glorious for hedging. Additionally they convey winter greenness to a shrubbery and may develop into magnificent bushes.
What’s extra, hollies react effectively to virtually each form of pruning. You’ll be able to clip them yearly, to create a dense, burglar-proof hedge. Bushes are straightforward to regulate with occasional trimming. Given sufficient area, a naturally grown holly tree turns into an excellent function. If it is a heavy-cropping feminine, the scarlet berries are set off by the darkish, shiny leaves.
Christmas favorite: Ilex aquifolium is helpful for adornment resulting from its many berries. Inventory picture used
With greater than 500 species, hollies are available a variety of sizes, shapes and hues. Some are deciduous — although most are evergreen. Some are prickle-free, others reasonably spiky and some are botanical hedgehogs.
THE BIG HYBRID
Britain’s wild holly, Ilex aquifolium, is my favorite. In Norfolk the place I lived as boy, hollies flourished within the gentle, sandy soils.
Berry yields had been all the time heavy, the extreme color contrasting superbly with the leaves.
Canary holly, I. perado, is an unremarkable, dogsbody shrub. But when crossed with I. aquifolium, the progeny is a horse of a distinct color.
The primary, exceptional hybrid was raised on the Highclere Property — the placement for TV sequence Downton Abbey. Therefore the dog-Latin botanical title, Ilex x altaclerensis. Leaves on Highclere hybrids are bigger and fewer prickly however nonetheless unmistakably holly. From that authentic cross come a number of very good varieties. The primary, a yellow-variegated feminine which was perversely named ‘Golden King’.
Equally daft, a berryless male with pale cream leaf margins was named I. aquifolium Silver Queen. I desire closely berried I. Argentea-marginata. That has prickles and pale cream leaf margins, too. Different females with variegated leaves embrace Golden Milkboy, Handsworth New Silver and the very good yellow and inexperienced Madame Briot. They’re straightforward to maintain to virtually any measurement or form.
To bear berries, feminine hollies want a male close by for pollination. The flowers on each sexes are tiny however important.
The male ought to subsequently be engaging. Selections embrace silvervariegated ‘hedgehog’ holly, I. aquifolium Ferox-Argentea. It flowers copiously and has engaging, extra-prickly leaves.
To thrive, hollies desire lightto-medium soils which drain effectively. Berries are extra considerable when hollies get loads of gentle.
Younger holly crops are extra weak. If set again — by drought, or being smothered by different crops — they’ll sulk for years. So water throughout dry spells and maintain weeds at bay. That is vital with newly planted hedges. To keep away from root disturbance, assist every holly with a cane and water frequently.
Tiny larvae of holly blue butterflies feed on blossom buds and tender younger leaves. They do no hurt to the tree and the intensely blue butterflies are like airborne gems.