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~