To the left of the main path into the Garden from the
Visitor Centre and next to the grass labyrinth
Commonly known as English or Common holly, Ilex
aquifolium is a species of holly native to the UK, western and
southern Europe, northwest Africa, and southwest Asia.
There are 500-600 different species of holly worldwide, these
are evergreen or deciduous trees, shrubs, and climbers from tropics
to temperate areas. The greatest diversity of species is found
in the Americas and in Southeast Asia especially China. Many
species, especially those native to the topics are under threat
from ongoing deforestation and habitat loss.
English Holly is a hardy evergreen tree growing up to 15 metres
and can live for 300 years or more. It is exceptionally shade
tolerant commonly growing in the understorey of woods. Holly
is, however, tolerant of most conditions and will grow quite
happily in full sun and most soils except very those that are very
wet. Its distinctive spiny leaves are found on lower branches
to deter grazing animals. On higher branches the leaves have
virtually no spines.
Holly clips very well, together with its evergreen nature and
tolerance of most environment conditions makes it a very good plant
for use in a hedge or as topiary. Clip holly hedges and topiarised
hollies in August. If variegated hollies produce plain green
shoots, remove them promptly.
Holly is dioecious, meaning it has separate male and female
plants. The white flowers appear in May and are pollinated by bees,
wasps, flies, and butterflies. The berries develop on female plants
by late November and are an important food for birds, but you
wouldn't want to eat them -they are rather tough and bitter,
causing vomiting and diarrhoea if eaten in large numbers. Holly
leaves are also a food plant of the caterpillar of the adeptly
named butterfly - the Holly Blue.
Although it is closely associated with Christmas, the tradition
of holly decoration predates Christianity and probably began with
the early pagans of Europe, who brought holly inside in the winter
to keep evil spirits away. The Romans sent holly branches with
presents during the December festival of Saturnalia.
AGM (Royal Horticultural
Society Award of Garden Merit). This award indicates
that this plant is recommended by the RHS following plant
trials during which the plant met strict criteria testing
its garden worthiness. More