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Get jolly about holly this Christmas

Wednesday, 13th November, 2019 4:44pm

There’s no escaping talk of holly and ivy at Christmas time.

Along with mistletoe, they are the main plants of the season and a true symbol of Christmas from decorating our homes, cakes and puddings to a beautiful image on Christmas cards.

As you may know, holly was used in pagan ceremonies long ago to celebrate the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. Holly and other evergreens represent the continuation of life through the winter. While the druids regarded holly as a symbol of fertility and eternal life, thought to have magical powers. In druidic lore, cutting down a holly tree would bring bad luck. In contrast, hanging the plant in homes was believed to bring good luck and protection. Holly was also thought to protect homes against lightning strikes.

Today, Christians consider holly symbolic of Jesus Christ in two ways. The red berries represent the blood that Jesus shed on the cross on the day he was crucified. Legend states that holly berries were originally white, but that the blood Christ shed for the sins of humankind stained the berries forever red. A holly's pointed leaves symbolize the crown of thorns placed on Jesus' head before he died on the cross.

Today we still continue the tradition of bringing springs of holly into our home or create a beautiful wreath with red berry holly. One tradition in Munster was that after Christmas, the holly was removed but it was never burnt on the fire, probably because it would have released the bad spirits back into the house, according to the beliefs at the time. Instead, it was always taken outside and discarded.

Holly is often laden with berries throughout the winter months and are an essential source of food for many berry-eating birds. The birds will enjoy the berries but usually only later in the winter when frost has made them softer and more palatable, and when levels of ilicin, a bitter alkaloid, have reduced.

Some people don't have room for more than one holly tree and JC Van Tol is the ideal solution because it is self-fertile and produces berries as a single tree. This is one of the most popular of the freely berrying hollies. It is grown mainly for its large bright red fruits.

The leaves are a dark green, quite large and only sparsely toothed. This can be grown into a beautiful standard tree. This thrives in a large pot and will make a beautiful feature.

Two proud standard hollies at the entrance to your home is stunning with all year round colour and very low maintenance. The standard Van Tol also make a beautiful feature tree in your garden

Neillie R Stevens is an evergreen holly with its handsome glossy leaves has been a popular for decades because of its vigorous growth and compact habit.

The leaves are thick and have teeth typically associated with the holly. This female holly is extremely fruitful and colourful when loaded with bright red berries in winter. It provides both food and nesting habitat for birds.

Argentea Marginata features masses of bright red berries in autumn to winter and lustrous, spiny, silver-margined, dark green leaves, purplish-pink when young. This splendid, silver-margined holly makes an excellent, evergreen specimen tree for a sunny, medium-sized garden.

It's particularly suitable for urban or coastal sites since it copes well with pollution and salt-laden air. The stems are ideal for floral arrangements.

Griffins are delighted to announce that the centre received the Judges Special Merit Award 2019 for the Cork Business Awards 2019.

I wish to thank all our hard working team and customer for helping us make this happen.

For the month of November, enjoy free Christmas demonstrations at Griffins every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 11am. Booking isn't required. Check out our Facebook page or website for full details.

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