The Holly Bush - A Christmas Bush
You’ve seen holly, mostly at Christmas. Those lovely green leaves loaded with red berries.They really are symbols of Christmas. Their bright red berries and dark green leaves make them the perfect choice for wreaths and flower arrangements to add color and pop. To some folks, it wouldn't be Christmas without holly!
The interesting thing about holly is they are male and female plants.Both plants produce flowers but only the female produces berries.What a wonder of nature, one thing where the female does something better than the male! I mean after all, male birds are more colorful than female birds and so on.Anyway, with the holly you have to have a male nearby to pollinate the female so she will have berries.Of course, nearby constitutes within two miles! You can also have just one male for several females.
Hot dry summers affect the female too.If there isn’t enough water and/or it gets too hot the green summer berries will fall off. Those green summer berries are the ones that turn red later on so you will have a female without any red berries.
All hollies like full sun (without being too hot or dry.)They will grow in partial shade but tend to become more spindly with the bush not being as full.Plus, if you plant a female holly in the shade the berry yield will be lower meaning not as many berries on the shaded plant. Holly also likes well-drained soil.
The best time to plant a holly is in the fall. Be careful where you place a holly because its roots grow out far and wide. If you plant it too near your walkway the roots may get underneath and ‘uproot’ your walkway. As for trimming the holly, you can cut dead wood off anytime. Opinions vary about regular pruning, however, some say late fall others say winter. Christmas is a favorite time of some real holly buffs. They say that’s the best time to prune. The best part about pruning at Christmas time is you now have lovely holly branches to use in your house for Christmas decorating. (Remember holly is evergreen - green all year long) I guess it’s a decision you have to make yourself. Just don’t go prune crazy and cut away too much and always remove what you’ve pruned off. Dead leaves are not a good thing to leave around your holly although mulching is a good idea because of the holly's shallow roots. The mulch should be compost or wood chips or if you’re as lucky as I am you can use an enhanced mulch like Dynamulch. Fertilizing a few weeks before frost and in early spring is a good idea as well.
The berries of the holly are toxic to humans and pets. However, once frost has passed they are not toxic to birds. What happens when your holly bush has no berries and you know it's a female? Well, you may have pruned it too early in the year, cutting off the flower buds that will form berries. I mentioned earlier if the summer is very dry and you don't water your holly, they will drop their flowers and/or berries. Some gardeners say when the holly thinks it is in danger it will drop its flowers and berries (green ones) which means no red berries later.
Those little red berries are what make the holly stand out. There are a number of varieties of the holly bush but they all share the male - female requirement for berries. Now might be a good time to note, the varieties need to be the same to produce berries. If you have one variety of male and another variety of female their bloom times may not be the same. If they're not the same there will be a problem with pollination and you may not get any berries.
There are those who say an abundance of holly berries signals a harsh winter. I've never really noticed but now that I've learned that I'll have to keep a watchful eye.
Interesting Facts about Holly
- The Christian Church associated holly with the crown of thorns, with the red berries representing Jesus' blood.
- Holly is the official state tree of Delaware.
- There are holly bushes and holly trees...trees reach a height of 35 to 50 feet!
- In South America holly is used to make a type of tea drink.
- The only places holly doesn't grow is western North America and Australia.
There are somewhere between 400 and 600 species of holly, can you believe it? In researching this article I found that the Druids used holly as wreaths on their heads.Yes, the Druids. When we were in Ireland I was amazed that we stood on ground the Druids stood on and here I find the Druids used holly, one of my favorite plants. In ancient Rome holly was given to newly married couples as it represented good will. In Ireland holly was believed to protect one from evil spirit while in Scandinavian countries it was believed holly protected from lightning.They believed it was originally owned by Thor the God of thunder and lightning.
Hollybush is the name of a road in South Wales.There is a Head of Hollybush located in Knott County, Kentucky together with a Hollybush Creek.There’s a Holly Bush Pub in Hampstead Village, London, said to have “the best Sunday roast.” There’s a Hollybush mansion at Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey.There are also people with the last name Hollybush. Seems Holly is popular in many ways.
So the holly bush is more than just a bush; it’s a name, it’s a place, it’s a bush, it’s a tree, and it’s an interesting species. Look up the holly bush to use this Christmas you won’t be sorry you did.
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Have a Holly Jolly Christmas
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