Advent: December 14th

Deck the halls with boughs of holly!

I expect quite a few people might be taking the chance this weekend to put up a few Christmas decorations. I’m still holding off putting mine up and so they’re still in the box under my stairs (although I would quite like to find where I’ve squirrelled away my jolly bouncy santa-on-a-spring I hang in my kitchen because it makes me smile whether it’s Christmas or not!).

Outside the holly berries are plentiful. Folk lore says this means it will be a harsh winter – however I suspect it has far more to do with what the weather was doing when the flowers were pollinated earlier in the year and whether in fact there is a suitable holly plant nearby…

Holly – Ilex aquifolium – is a dioecious shrub that needs both male and female plants for pollination and here in the mixed shrub hedgerows around fields holly is mostly used as a marker plant. Although it has to be said it does make quite stock proof fences if it’s laid properly! Goats will munch their way through but most other livestock respect it. I’ve been told various things by country people but the two consistent things are that holly is used every so often either every 10 plants or after a certain distance. I’ve also heard that it’s planted to show the position of the field drains. Whatever – it’s not the most common plant in the hedge and if there isn’t a male plant near a female plant then the chances of berries are fewer.

This isn’t the case for the holly tree growing out of the hedge on my neighbours boundary at the top of our hill (the bryn of the hill) It’s fruited it’s heart out this year and whilst it’s tempting to cut some for decorations I know the wild birds need it more than I do so I’ll probably leave it there for them to eat – just in case the folk lore is right and it does turn out to be a harsh winter after all…

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