The Holly

29th March 2019

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Know Your Trees

If you have a holly tree in your garden, lucky you – it’s one of my favourite trees for the vibrant, almost other-worldly, green of its leaves, because of the protection it offers to nesting birds, and for its evergreen nature, which means you can enjoy a holly all year round.

And, if you’re looking to plant a new tree in your garden, whether front or back, the holly would be a wonderful addition for its hardiness and its appearance.

In your garden
The holly may be most memorable for the Christmas song it’s best known for and the prickly leaves that protect it, but there’s so much more to know about this wonderful tree that could bring new life to a dull garden.

For starters, did you know that the holly can live for up to four human lifetimes – that’s around 300 years. And mature trees can grow up to 15m in height – that’s approximately three and a half double decker buses. So if you’re looking for a tree that will eventually give you privacy from your neighbours then look no further, but if that seems a little too large then the holly can always be kept at a more manageable height by good pruning.

Looking after your holly means looking after the homes of the many creatures that nest, burrow or crawl there. In spring, the black-edged, bright-blue Holly Blue butterfly will be seen flitting from leaf to leaf. It lays eggs on the tree and later in the spring its caterpillars will gorge themselves on its leaves. Many small birds will build their nests in a holly tree for the protection its dense, pointy leaves afford them all year round, and the all-you-can-eat buffet of red berries that ripen in the wintertime.

While pollination of holly trees is done by insects, new trees can sprout up without notice from the seeds that pass through the guts of the many birds that make a meal of them throughout the winter months.

Threats your holly may face
The holly is vulnerable to leaf mining insects and many trees have at least some leaves infested with them. They turn the leaves from gorgeous, shiny, dark green to a patchy lighter green or even brown as the fly larvae feeds inside the leaves. Thankfully, though unsightly, the holly leaf miner does not do any harm to the tree itself.

If allowed to, the holly can grow out of control, placing areas of a garden into shadow, and impacting on what can survive there. This is why it’s so important to prune and shape your holly tree, usually in late September, though careful pruning can take place any time the tree is not in bloom or covered in berries.

A few things you may not know about your holly trees

  • Did you know that while younger, holly tree leaves are spiky, older holly tree leaves are often smooth?
  • Four-petalled male flowers and female flowers on different trees are needed for pollination.
  • The original yule log brought into the house at Christmastime was from a holly tree as the waxy green leaves and bright red berries were the colour palette of the holiday, and a lovely way to brighten the home.
  • In ancient mythology the holly tree was seen as a way to ward off witches and goblins.

If you would like to talk to an expert about the good health of your holly trees, or to discuss the best time of year or location for planting your new holly tree, call us on 0208 292 8992. We’re always happy to pop round or to help.

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