In Praise of Holly

Tree PeonyGiven that Somerset are playing Yorkshire at Taunton it seems unlikely, but I declare today to be the first day of summer. To mark it I'm going to write with apparent perversity about Holly. Wandering around the garden enjoying the warmth, this afternoon I was snapping brassy beauties like our tree peony, bought from Kelway's Nursery, spiritual home of the peony and just down the road from us. I began to wonder though where all my bees were - that was until I came across our holly tree. Despite it being pretty shaded it was jumping with them. As our tree is female it offers them no pollen, but its pretty little flowers must be a pretty good nectar source. It's a favourite for the birds too - this one tree has had three nests in it this year, including one that was home to our lovely Mistle Thrushes.Female Holly My guess is that our native holly hasn't been much planted of late. It doesn't feature in commercial native hedge mixes sold by folk like us because it can't be sold bare root. It's too slow for most people to plant as a screen, and if you want a slow growing evergreen hedge then Yew is easier to grow and to manage - and it's posher. Holly flowers are so inconspicuous most people don't even notice them, and our berries get stripped by the birds before we can use them for Christmas decorations. It will be a shame if holly starts to get rarer; it's not only a useful tree that grows in the darkest spots, but one deeply rooted in British myth and landscape.