Castle Howard, Historic House North Yorkshire
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Tree of the Month - Holly
By Maria Ellis  //  Fri 15th December 2017
Trees, Nature, Tree Nursery
‘Of all the trees that are in the wood, the Holly bears the crown’

December is full of the hustle and bustle of festive preparations. Christmas trees are carefully selected with many declarations of ‘too short... too tall... too bushy!’ before the perfect specimen is found. Draped with twinkling lights and adorned with ornaments, some new, some old and always one rather dubious homemade effort, the trees transform our living rooms into cosy, festive hideaways. The preparations do not stop there however. There are mountains of food to prepare, presents to wrap, cards to post, parties to attend and Christmas jumpers to retrieve from the back of the wardrobe. All these little routines are part of how we celebrate the season and whilst we light our fires and welcome friends and family into our homes, make sure you remember to take a peek outdoors as nature has its own special way of celebrating this time of year.

Midwinter is anything but bleak. Bursting into colour at a time when all others have faded, plants like Holly have given generations of people hope and joy through some of the darker, colder months. Its scarlet berries and prickly dark, green leaves are unmistakeable and will be adorning many of our mantles pieces and staircases this month. Together with ivy, mistletoe and hellebores, they brighten up an otherwise colourless landscape. Holly assures us that nature will never fail but will dutifully lead us through the ice and snow and back into spring the following year. This is no doubt why holly has become entangled in our festive celebrations and has become almost synonymous with Christmas. However, Holly used to play an even bigger part in festivities then it does now. In  pre-Christian times, a boy and girl would be chosen each winter solstice, dressed head-to-toe in holly and ivy and together they would parade through the village in a show of bringing nature through the darkest months. Sprigs would be brought inside the home to protect the occupants from evil spirits and Holly trees would be planted in gardens to ward off ill luck. It was only during Victorian times that we began decorating spruce trees with lights and ornaments when Prince Albert introduced the German tradition. Before this time, if you asked someone for a Christmas tree, they would show you to the nearest Holly bush.

A good Holly bush with plentiful berries can be hard to find and you better be quick off the mark if you plan on gathering a sprig or two for your own home as you’ll have some fierce competition for this prized ornament. As we feast on turkey and mince pies, blackbirds, fieldfares and redwings share a banquet of bright red Holly berries. That’s if they can get past the diligent mistle thrush who will guard this valuable food in order to keep it to themselves! Meanwhile, livestock and deer will happily feed on the lower branches to strengthen themselves through winter and at the base of the tree, hedgehogs and small mammals use any fallen leaf litter to keep them warm through their long hibernations.

We may not need to go to these lengths to get us through the winter but this year, add a little nature to your festive routine. Plant a Holly tree to brighten your garden or as a good luck omen (just remember, if you want a good display of berries you’ll need both a female Holly and a male to fertilise it) and for something a little different try one of the many different varieties such as Ilex ‘Silver Queen’, a beautiful Holly with ivory edged leaves.


Contact Details:
Purchase your Holly tree today at our Tree Nursery on 01653 648646.
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