Monday, December 8

Christmas Holly

I've always loved holly. The beautiful red berries against the dark, shiny green leaves bring a splash of colour to our homes in the Yuletide season.

English holly has been used as a symbol of Christmas in European countries for centuries. The spiky leaves represent the crown of thorns worn by Christ as He hung on the cross. The berries, the droplets of blood that he shed and the green leaves in harsh, frigid climates represented everlasting life.

When Europeans came to America, they didn't bring English holly but found that there was holly growing in the New World. This is the holly that they used each year to decorate their homes and it's been a tradition ever since.

Early in the 20th century, holly was very popular. People began stealing it from the forests on private property and there were times when holly trees were cut down for the precious green leaves and berries that were produced. At that time Delaware and Maryland passed a law that forbid the sale of fresh holly in order to prevent the vandalism that was taking place.

Before Europeans arrived in America, Native Americans used holly leaves to brew tea for coughs. They sometimes used the berries for buttons for clothing but the majority of berries were left for winter food for the birds. Holly berries are poison to humans but birds love them and they are a great source of nutrition for our feathered friends.

I've always wanted two holly bushes for the front of our property. I've never been able to find them, but one of these days I will. If you want holly to produce berries, you have to have both a male and female plant. In late spring both bushes will produce creamy, white flowers, but only the female produces berries. A single male holly bush can pollinate up to eight female bushes.

Holly bushes like full sun and acidic soil. They can be grown in partial shade but will probably develop leaf spot. Some kinds of holly produce yellow berries and to me these are not as pretty, but it is a personal preference. Traditional holly has red leaves and if this is your goal, be sure to read the label or ask staff at the garden center. Another option is to buy holly when it has berries on it to be sure of what you are purchasing.

Do not prune holly after it flowers in early spring or there will be few berries produced. The best time of year to prune your holly bush is December, though holly doesn't really need to be pruned. Left to its own devices, holly will grow naturally in a pyramid shape.

When we see pictures of holly, we automatically think of Christmas. It has become known as a symbol of the holiday season. It can be used in centerpieces, swags, wreaths and other decorations to make your home more festive.

It's going to be busy around here. I have a lot to do before Christmas. The boys came over for the afternoon and we got the Christmas village up. Then we headed out to a farm that sells Christmas trees. They also have a Christmas store. It was terribly cold and the wind had quite a bite to it. By the time we walked to the store from the parking lot, we were freezing. We looked around in the store, which had some unique Christmas ornaments. They even had a western section with cowboy Santas. Some were on horses and some were wearing cowboy hats and boots. No, Anni, they didn't have a stagecoach, but I did think of you and looked for one. We didn't buy anything but had a good time looking around. Then we headed out to look for a tree. However, we had a change of heart when we saw they were asking anywhere from $50 to $70 for a tree.

I wish all of my friends and readers a great week. For the next three weeks we are going to be busy. Make sure you take time for yourself so as not to get an overload of stress. After all, Christmas is a time of joy and giving. Be kind to yourself and do an random act of kindness for someone less fortunate. You'll be surprised at the great feeling you will have knowing you've done something to make others happy. ~Blessings, Mary~


  1. We had some holly here when we bought our house, but is was too shady and didn't do well. It is a beautiful plant though! Have a wonderful week!

  2. Holly looks beautiful. It's something we don't have alot of here unfortunately.

  3. I'll wish you a holly jolly Christmas right now then.

  4. It a busy time of year. I think tree here is selling for about $30.00.
    I heard in Seattle area tree are about $20.00 each.

    I don't know if you can do this is Canada or not.
    But one can get stuff off the national forest here. It usual cost $5 for each type of permit. Maybe you can get one for your holly.
    I've seen it here.

    Coffee is on.

  5. I have two Holly bushes. . .I hope they will do something this year:)
    I have an artificial tree, stopped paying those prices years ago.
    Thanks for the reminder on the busyness of the season. . .Hope you have a peaceful week:)

  6. I have several holly bushes planted last year and will be so thrilled when they get a bit bigger..... I ate a couple of holly berries when I was young and it made me very very sick....... I can still remember that taste when I see a holly bush, but now I just leave them for the birds! Have a good week girl and maybe I will have time to catch up during the week and send an email.....

  7. We had holly bushes when I was a child and I only remember how difficult they were to trim. Of course I didn't have to clip them because I was the "baby". I didn't have to do a lot of things for that reason. It's good being the baby.

  8. Love your story about the Holly. It grows wild on the sides of the road here in Louisiana and is growing now. I love it, the colors are so pretty.

  9. I agree about the festive look that holly brings to the home's decor for the season. I didn't know about the cross pollination tho. Makes sense of course, doesn't it?!!

    Have a blessed Monday Mary.

    I swear, an artificial tree is worth it's weight in gold. We bought one for $100 years ago...and with the cost of a real tree, well, it's pennies on the dollar comparing to the cost of a REAL tree. Just pack it away and the years to come using the same tree over and over...the yearly cost is about $1 a year.

  10. We have native holly that grows here on the coast and my little county supplies a huge amount of all of the Christmas tree's that are sold around the country. When I worked at the bank, I loved payday of the Christmas farms, because as the tree farm workers came in the whole bank filled up with the smell of evergreens. Mmmm...

  11. When I was a youngster, we got our tree from the forrest of someone we knew, usually. I do believe we got the occasional one from the property of a stranger. I'm sure my parents never thought of it as stealing, probably felt trees were planted by God and belonged to us all. It bothers me when I remember this.
    My sister and I used to decorate around the doors and windows at the front of the house with cedar boughs. I remember how nice it smelled.
    I had never heard the legend of Holly. Thanks for posting this.
    Mama Bear

  12. WE used to have a huge patch of it that we planted over the basement window well - it was beautiful, but scratchy. We eventually had to take it out, but it was really prolific.

    Have a wonderful week!

  13. Holly reminds me of Christmas with my family of origin because my mom always decorated the mantle with bows of holly. I'm not sure if you know that I've created a new blog, but I wrote a memory piece about my Dad there (whose 105th birthday would have been Dec. 7th if he'd lived) so if time permits you might enjoy it more than what I've shared at Small Reflections today.
    Hugs and blessings,

  14. Hi Mary...just coming by to catch up a bit... Hope all is well with you and yours, and that you have a great week ahead.

    Love, Jess

  15. I adore the look of holly, but haven't seen any for years now. Hmmm, think I will go on a trip this week and see if I can find some to decorate with.

    God bless.

  16. mary,
    A quick hello! Hope this finds you well! Love,Lori

  17. just found your lovely blog!
    i love the design!
    happy holidays to you,

  18. Mary I love love holly too. Very interesting post!

  19. Mary,

    Holly is very beautiful and is truly a tradition. I also like mistletoe. Last year, a lady was passing it out for free at Kroger, I hung a bunch all over the house...ensured a lot of kisses..:)

  20. I have 3 holly shrubs under the front bedroom window...I don't know what kind they are, but they are beautiful.....and prickly! LOL

    This post was very informative. I learned some things I never knew before about holly!

    (((((( HUGS ))))))

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