Friends and loved ones who gather at Christmas time will see holly wreaths and on mantles, its image on cards, stockings and presents.
As it has done every winter since long before the Roman conquest, holly will work its magic, evoking feelings of tradition and spreading cheer. In forests and in yards, the berries are appreciated by robins, bluebirds and mockingbirds. Hardy as the bushes are, they can thrive in a city’s salt and exhaust.
“There’s something magical about holly, especially this time of year,” says William N. (Bill) Kuhl, an expert on the species who has done his part to preserve this Yuletide tradition for the past 40 years. His nursery has hundreds of holly trees, many 70 and 80 years old and in more than 100 varieties.
An old English carol claims holly has “prickles as sharp as thorns, bark as bitter as gall, and berries as bright as life-giving blood.” But to those who love it, like gardeners, growers, retailers and botanists who belong to the Holly Society, it’s endlessly fascinating. It’s attractive in unique ways, blending dark and bright, the harsh and the inviting.
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