Embrace nature and turn to the outdoors for your decorating essentials. Holly (Ilex Aquifolium) is one of those aesthetic beauties boldly coloured and incredibly prickly. Holly is native to the UK and can also be found in other parts of Europe, Asia and North America. These bold plants can serve as a safe abode for a myriad of small mammals. Hedgehogs love to hibernate in a holly bush and a holly bush has all the right characteristics for making small creatures feel safe and well sheltered. Although poisonous to humans, birds love eating the scarlet coloured berries as they endure the winter months.
To the Druids, holly had magical powers and was a symbolism of fertility and eternal life. To the Druids cutting down a holly tree would conjure bad luck, however, hanging holly inside the home would bring about good luck and have protective qualities. Druid Lore also identified that hanging holly in the home would stop a home from being struck by lightening. Romans would display holly during the festival of Saturnalia as holly was associated with Saturn, the god of agriculture and harvest.
In Christianity holly was considered symbolic of the thorns worm by Jesus when he died on the cross. Templar exornatur, meaning "churches are decked," was marked on Christmas Eve in early Christian calendars. The crimson berries of the holly is a representation of the blood Jesus shed when he was crucified. Holly berries were originally thought to be white in legend, and that the blood Jesus shed stained the berries for eternity. The crown of thorns placed on Jesus' head before dying on the cross is depicted in the prickly leaves in the foliage of the holly.
A mature holly tree can live to a ripe age of 300 years and reach up to 15m tall. Decorating our homes and outdoor wreaths with holly seems to never have gone out of fashion. Their presence offers a sense of nostalgia and will complement both a modern and traditional home. These plants are easily distinguishable from many of our native plants, making them even more alluring. Its prickles, dark glossy waxy leaves and bright shiny berries will always look distinctive amidst the deciduous trees and plants that have lost their leaves over the hash winter.
Sprigs of holly are famously prominent in our homes during the Christmas period, but holly has been used for many other uses over the centuries. Holly wood is immensely compact and hard, perfect for carving items like walking sticks and chess pieces. Even though the berries are poisonous to humans, the leaves of the holly have been used in medicine in the past. There is little proof of their effectiveness as a medicine, but it has been long thought that these leaves can be used as a herbal remedy to aid dizziness, fever and hypertension.