The History of the Irish Holly
The evergreen holly is a native species which you will find in a lot of our native forests and woods. Holly dates back to the druid era and it's name as gaeilge is 'Cuileann'. It's evergreen leaves represent immortality; the spines recall Christ's crown of thorns and the red berries drops of his blood. Holly is always used as a decoration in Irish houses – I know in our house, my mum would bless the holly with holy water before putting it up.
Planting and Care of Holly
Holly likes a very well drained soil and a relatively sunny position. It is very hardy and can put up with pretty cold conditions. Holly likes good nutrition in the soil, so use slow release fertilizer when planting and every 6 months from there on.
Male or Female Holly
Most people get very confused with varieties of holly – it is very hard to tell the sex of a holly from the leaf, you would have to wait until it flowers! Generally, if you have a male and female holly in the same garden, you will get a good crop of berries.
My favourite varieties:
'Silver Queen' is a dense small evergreen tree or shrub with purple young shoots and pink-tinged young leaves. Mature leaves spiny, dark green with a broad cream margin. Flowers small, white, male
'Golden King' is a small bushy evergreen tree or shrub with broad ovate, slightly spiny leaves margined with bright yellow. Flowers small, dull white; berries brownish-red, not abundant
'Handsworth New Silver' is a compact, dense evergreen tree or shrub with purple young shoots. Elliptic leaves, to 9cm in length, have spines in plane of leaf, and are broadly margined with white. Flowers small, white, followed by bright red berries
'Madame Briot' is a bushy small evergreen tree with purple young stems. Leaves broadly ovate, spiny, with a bold golden-yellow margin. Flowers small, white; berries bright red