The Ashridge Nurseries Blog

Our Top Tips For The Season: no. 2


Why isn't Holly prickly at the top?

If you want to cut holly for wreaths, mantelpieces and other decorations, get out your ladder and cut from branches higher up in the tree. You will avoid puncturing yourself too much that way because the leaves are less prickly at the top. According to a recent study by The National Research Council of Spain, this is because the plant has adapted itself to provide protection from any grazing animals like deer which will nibble it down in its youth. After the trees reach a certain height the plant is more out of reach.

How to get the maximum number of berries

If you want lots of berries plant male and female varieties together as one helps pollinate the other and place them in lawns or topiarise them to give an all year round display in your garden. Or plant varieties that are guaranteed to berry such as Ilex Alaska

Use your Holly Plants in borders?

Holly plants are not really suitable for flower borders as weeding them is too much of a prickly business.

Prune your Holly Plants

Holly plants tend to thrive better in acidic soil and good sun. Pruning them into shapes is good for them because otherwise they can end up strangling themselves.

Missing berries?

For those leaves without berries, spray them with a metallic paint. Arranged around the base of scented or tall votive candles and they look lovely and shimmery at night.

Use Oak leaves in decorations

Oak leaves are also a good leaf to spray and use in decorations. Collect the best shapes, leave them to dry in an airing cupboard, windowsill or on an Aga and then spray them putting newspaper underneath to protect surfaces. These can look charming glued to gifts wrapped in plain wrapping paper.

When to put up holly

A week or two before Christmas start putting holly on mantelpieces and around the top of pictures to make a festive display. Wreaths can be prepared now and wear thick gloves! Even one or two in a display helps add colour.

What's in a name?

Variegated plants tend to be male. Don’t be deceived by hollies names sounding masculine – some such as ‘Martin’ are feminine.

Prune your roses

On the subject of prickly plants, reduce the height of roses by one third now. It stops them suffering from windrock. Then prune properly in Feb/Mar.

Protect your trees

Put fleece on tender plants such as Tree ferns (Dicksonia), banana plants (Musa) and ornamental ginger to prevent the frost getting at them.

Make no miss-stake!

Check stakes and ties of trees planted last year to make sure they are firm and sound. Replace where necessary.

Clear the pond

It’s your last chance to clear detritus out of ponds before it rots. Lots of methane and kills the fish

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