Posts Tagged ‘holly’

The holly…

December 21st, 2018 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Ilex aquifolium 'J. C. van Tol'

“How cheerless an aspect our gardens wear, in this dreary month of December,” Charlotte Elizabeth remarks in her delightful and slightly eccentric, Chapters on Flowers of 1842, “ had not some plants been endured with hardihood to retain their leaves, when the greater proportion have been stripped bare by chilling frosts and blighting winds.”

Charlotte Elizabeth was described in 1901 as “a woman of strong mind, powerful feeling, and of no inconsiderable share of tact.” She was also an early enthusiast for women’s rights. In Chapters on Flowers she has a tendency to divert her attention from the plants to religious matters but nevertheless continues wisely on the subject of evergreens.

“It is a point of wisdom, plentifully to intersperse our evergreens among the brighter, but more transitory children of summer; and now that the dead leaves are finally swept off, and my garden looks once more perfectly tidy, I can appreciate the taste that, in first laying it out–long before I had ever seen it–allotted no small space to plants that would defy the season’s severity.”

In today’s magazines, that fine sentiment would be expressed more crudely: “Grow evergreens for winter colour” .

She then continues, via a sly dig at lawns, with crisp reports of her own evergreens before “last, not least, the Holly-Bush abounds, valuable as a fence, beautiful in the lustre of its highly-polished leaves, sprinkled with berries of vivid red; and endeared by the sweetest, the purest, the most scared associations that can interest the mind, and elevate the soul.”

She then launches into, well, a bit of a rant against religious bigots who attack the use of holly as a seasonal decoration. “I wish, with all my heart, that the grandsires and granddames of this generation would do something to stem that sweeping tide of religious folly, yclept the march of intellect-the progress of refinement. It is now (thought) intolerably vulgar, insupportedly childish, and popishly superstitious to deck our houses at Christmas-tide with the shining holly… I have fought many battles with my pious friends, in defence of my pertinacious adherence to this good old custom. Sorry should I be, to leave the holly uncropped, or the house unadorned with its bright honours, on that most blessed anniversary….”

And just to remind you: ‘J. C. van Tol’ (above) produces red berries without the need of a different variety as pollinator and also has no spines.