How to Choose Holly For Your garden
If you have a holly tree with berries in your garden, get in early to collect your share for indoor decorations before the birds decimate it. At any other time of year it would seem strange to merrily gather ‘decorations’ from the woodlands (let alone entire trees!) but once a year off we trot ‘en masse’ to adorn our homes with foliage and berries. It is as if, knowing that we will be sheltering inside for some time, we need to keep little reminders of the natural world as companions to get us through the long, bleak winter.
Originally holly was hung up around the home to ward off evil spirits and some people believed it provided a hiding place for faerie folk. Subsequently, it was adopted by Christianity as a symbol of the thorny crown of Jesus, with the berries representing his blood.
If you’re thinking of planting your own holly tree, with more than 200 different varieties on offer, choosing the right one for your own piece of winter magic is vital. A good choice for the garden is Ilex x altaclerensis ‘Golden King’ – it has wonderful foliage with creamy-yellow margins and red berries. This ‘King’ is actually a female so if you want it to produce berries ensure there is a male holly nearby.
A really good one with striking, variegated leaves is ‘Silver Queen’. I have absolutely NO IDEA why the king is female and the Queen male, I guess it’s just the way of the world sometimes, like the transgender tradition of panto dames and princes. There are also self-fertile females; the relatively fast-growing Ilex x aquifolium ‘Pyramidalis’ makes a particularly attractive specimen shrub. If you prefer yellow berries, ‘Pyramidalis Fructu Lutea’ will berry heavily all on its own. If space is at a premium, try growing ‘Alaska’, which is compact enough for smaller gardens and fruits while still quite young. It can also be clipped for topiary (at the expense of the berries, of course).