Urban Gardener: Hollies Make Christmas Gardens Bright
Saturday, December 21, 2013
Hollies grow well in southern New England and will do well for you too. They have few requirements beyond the means of most urban gardeners. Hollies are a small, relatively slow growing tree that thrives in partial shade. Their evergreen leaves are highly articulated and form dense mounds of foliage. Their red berries are not edible for humans but are attractive to birds. The hollies thrive all the more when they are pruned. Clip the trees for dense growth along the ubiquitous chain link fences in our cities for beautiful and impenetrable barriers. Birds will thank you for the protective thickets and build their nests among the close knit leaves.
The holly naturally grows on the edges of wetlands and this proclivity hints at their cultural requirements. Plenty of moisture is a good thing. They also grow well as part of the understory of taller trees and are often naturally associated with oaks and swamp maples. Acidic soils are fine for hollies. Our soil is naturally acidic and fertilizers to enhance acidity are more necessary west of the Mississippi than in New England. Not at all fussy, hollies disturb some gardeners by the slow growth of young plants. Once established, they flourish. Be patient gardeners and wait out the first couple seasons of settling in. Don’t transplant your holly from here to there and expect rampant growth. Think through the needs of the plant before selecting a permanent site, let it settle in and grow. When they’ve developed a strong root system, it’s possible to harvest vibrant greenery for the holiday solstice. Shaping hollies can range from the artistic topiary onwards to simply control height or hedge.
Winter is the season most of us associate with hollies. Gardens are good for the spirit at all times of the year and I enjoy growing hollies for their punctuation of green and as reminders of other seasons. Hollies have an aura around them. They are naturally attractive and inspire. Like roses, they have an occasional thorn as part of the leaves. Don’t be discouraged, these thorns are dangerous only to the especially clumsy and some varieties are virtually thornless. The wood is dense and valued for its fine grain. Most gardeners reap many benefits from growing the holly in their garden. Essential for winter display are the red berries cherished by so many. Female hollies offer the red berries and require a male holly tree to fertilize their inconspicuous spring blooms. Plant a male holly or survey your neighborhood for other holly trees. If your neighbors have hollies with red berries there must be a male holly somewhere within 100 feet of the female. Are you in doubt? Select a male holly at the nursery and plant in within range but not immediately close to the specimen female plants. A single male holly will provide plenty of pollen for many female holly trees.
Hollies have a long life. They endure. Season after season the holly is a constant. Hollies remind gardeners of the four seasons. Our culture often moves from artificial holiday sales events. Hollies are from an older time. Their relationship with western culture precedes Christianity. Druids wore holly as sacred regalia. Often, hollies were planted in holy places. Or groves of the tree marked places for worship. This idea persists on many levels into the present. We decorate our doorways with wreaths of holly. Or we illustrate our art and greetings with these lovely green plants, their bright red berries reminiscent of bloodshed for our benefit. A holly tree is both memorial and promise.
Plant a pair of holly trees. They can still be bought at nursery centers when other plants are not available. Explore the marvelous world of holly varieties. Dark rich green may distinguish one variety to suit the gardener’s taste for depth or one may select a variegated type for more light. If you’re an urban gardener with that special commodity, space, enjoy the freedom of choice and plant several varieties. There is no regret or remorse among the hollies, only rewards and benefits. It’s no wonder that the holly has accompanied people in their travels and become resident across the globe. The wish for the peace that passes all understanding is nobly renewed each year by the holly’s lovely green foliage and bright red berries.
2013 Gift Guide: Holiday Gifts That Are Pure Rhode Island
RI State Tree Magnets
Sure you've thought about decorating your Christmas tree, but what about your refrigerator? Pick up a "Rhode Island State Tree" magnet for either yourself of that special someone on your list at the hip Providence shop Frog and Toad.
Buy it from: Frog and Toad, 795 Hope Street, Providence.
"Eat, Drink, and Be Merry" Gift Basket
Take the short cut to a loved one's heart through the stomach with this sensational gift basket combining all the best flavors of Rhode Island. These succulent samplers includes Del's Lemonade, RI Seafood Co. Lobster Bisque, Chopped Quahogs & RI Chowdah Mix, Ocean State Gourmet Country Cornbread mix, Tito's Chips & Salsa, RI Rocks Chocolate snack mix, Olneyville NY System Hot Wiener mix, RI Red Hot Sauce, and Iggy's Famous Doughboy Mix. Feel free to choose from a blue, yellow, green, or special gift basket. Enjoy!
Buy It From: Only in Rhode Island
"3 All The Way and a Coffee Milk" T-Shirt
Don't miss out on the only opportunity to wear N.Y. System Hot Weiners without ruining your clothes from grease stains. Embody this classic Rhode Island order with a t-shirt that will definitely be a conversation starter.
Buy It From: Back Roads Clothing
Buddy Rhodes-The Rhode Island Pillow
Who could resist Buddy Rhodes, arguably the most adorable representation of Rhode Island ever? Bring home Buddy with his handsome hand-stitched face, soft royal blue fleece and the star representing Providence. Although this precious pillow is named after the famous mayor Buddy Cianci, I think we all know who is the cuter Buddy.
Buy It From: Felt Like It/Etsy
Art of the State
Home Is Where The Heart Is Vintage RI Plaque
Home never has to be far away with this beautiful plaque that brings us right back to Rhode Island regardless of distance. Each plaque is hand crafted and can be customized by choosing the state and background color.
Buy It From: CrestField/Etsy
Rhode Island Cufflinks
Show love to your state in style with these unique Rhode Island State Quarter cufflinks. This set of cufflinks have been hand soldered and then given a light patina to highlight the image on the coin.
Buy It From: customcoinrings/Etsy
Art of the State II
Cities of RI Subway Scroll
This vintage style wall plaque is hand made to commemorate the wonderful state of Rhode Island and it's unique and individual cities. The surface is finished with my "flatter than satin" poly finish with a saw tooth hanger on the back. Would look great on every Rhode Islander's wall.
Buy it from: CrestField/Etsy
Pump It Up
Federal Hill Italian Gym Bag
The delectable meal you are trying to work off in the gym never has to be too far away with this Federal Hill Gym Bag. Made with water-resistant nylon construction, it is made durable for someone with an athletic lifestyle who still loves to splurge at Rhode Island's Little Italy.
Buy It From: Blast-O-Tees
Charms Are Here
Newport RI Charm
Made from an upcycled nautical chart and a small round glass droplet measuring about 3/4" across, this charm has a split jump ring that makes adding it to your favorite bracelet a cinch. It is water and stain resistant, but not waterproof, so remember to take yours off before hitting the beach or the bathtub!
Note: Bracelet not included.
Buy It From: sweetmaddie/Etsy
Greeting from RI Postage Ornament
This unique two-sided ornament features a Rhode Island postage stamp on one side and a map of the state on the other. A great gift for the holidays, these ornaments are soldered between two pieces of glass and then adorned with ribbon, a freshwater pearl and glass bead.
Buy it from: Seagate8Studio/Etsy
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