Holly and berries

Posted: Monday 9 December 2013
by Adam Pasco

...several large holly bushes have produced lovely crops of red berries this year. The only problem is that I'm not the only one with my eye on them!

It's lovely bringing a little piece of your garden indoors to enjoy during the festive season. So, with the words of the Christmas carol singing in my ears, I've been planning to 'deck the halls with boughs of holly', or at least include some sprigs of berries in my home-grown decorations.

I'm in luck on the berry front, as several large holly bushes have produced lovely crops of red berries this year. The only problem is that I'm not the only one with my eye on them!

Whenever I venture outside I usually disturb a blackbird or two eagerly feeding from one of the berrying plants around my garden. Most of my shrubs have produced a generous supply this year, so could this be a warning of a cold winter ahead?

The orange berries on a firethorn really glow brightly on dull days, but their display is diminishing as their berries are eaten. The same fate has beset my Cotoneaster horizontalis. Growing alongside a fence, I love the way its arching stem latticework has now completely clad a 6ft panel, and at this time of year every branch is lined with shining red jewels.

All berries are welcome, but holly in particular, as it's features so strongly in Christmas traditions. To ensure the birds leave me a fair share of berries to enjoy indoors I do need to cover one or two stems with fleece or netting to keep them off. If I didn't, I have no doubt they'd strip the lot!

As long as I save a few to bring indoors then the birds can enjoy the rest. After all, eating berries saves me the cost of providing expensive bird food for them.

Apparently, in the UK we spend an estimated £200 million every year on bird care, and this amount is growing! Rather than just buying birdseed and fat balls I think there's a place for plants too. Berry-bearing shrubs such as holly are cheap to buy – around the same price as a large box of bird food –  and produce an even greater yield of fruit as they establish and grow bigger.

So as well as looking beautiful and providing festive cheer, they also feed a host of garden birds too. And that's an important consideration for every gardener, as by choosing plants with wildlife value you can enjoy the best of both worlds – beautiful displays plus a garden full of birds and wildlife.

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Talkback: Holly and berries
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oldchippy 10/12/2013 at 14:22

is it right you need both sexes to have winter berries,and lots of room to grow them.

fidgetbones 10/12/2013 at 14:56

You need to have both sexes. Only the females will have berries, but they need a male for pollination. They will grow in a large pot.

 Silver Queen is a male and will not have berries.

 Golden King is female and will have berries.

Fleurisa 10/12/2013 at 15:37

This one is supposed to be self fertile Ilex aquifolium 'J.C.van Tol'                               

Gardengirl.. 10/12/2013 at 16:20

These are both Self fertile holly trees


flowering rose 13/12/2013 at 16:40

my holly is full of berries too! just waiting for the redwings and fieldfares to come, the berries as do the woodys. I agree that we should grow more berry bushes rather than putting out fat balls but having said that I like to watch the antics of the birds on these .

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