Ideal for festive displays

Date
Published in
Various local newspapers (UK)
Written by
Kim Wilde
Why holly remains Christmas classic

For many generations, holly has traditionally adorned our homes during the festive season. It is great for making table decorations, using in bunches or mixing in wreaths, especially when accompanied by other seasonal plants like ivy, mistletoe and yew.

Although slow-growing, the evergreen holly bush makes for a distinctive feature and a ready source of display material. If you do not already have one, it is worth considering planting now.

There are many different varieties of holly to choose, which differ both in leaf and berry colour. It is an adaptable plant which grows in many
different soil types, as well as being happy in sun or shade. Some will make excellent hedges and dense screens, especially if regularly clipped.

If you wish to grow a holly in your garden, you should be aware that not all varieties will bear berries. This is because plants have either male or female flowers, and it is only the female flowering varieties that will produce berries. To ensure successful pollination, and therefore guarantee berries forming, you will need to plant a male and a female variety in your garden.

There is a wide choice of holly varieties to choose from. Good red-berrying female varieties include ilex aquifolium argentea marginata, with its silver margined leaves, ilex alterclarensis golden king, with its variegated leaves and ilex alterclarensis JC Van Toll, with its almost spineless dark green leaves.

Popular male varieties, grown for their handsome foliage, include ilex ferox argentea, which has spiny leaves with white margins, and ilex aquifolium golden queen, a striking plant with crinkled spiny leaves, edged bright yellow.

When planting, always position in a well-lit sunny spot, although any green-leaved variety will grow quite happily in shade. Incorporate some organic planting compost and water well. You should not cut any branches for display use until the plant has matured and is fully established, which may take several years.