If I asked you to think of plants or trees that remind you of winter, I am sure most of you would reply either holly or poinsettia (well, excluding the very obvious Christmas tree!). It’s obvious why we would think of a Christmas tree – but why is holly such a great plant for winter?

Well, I think we all love holly at this time of year because it represents winter and Christmas for us with its bright green leaves and its red berries. We have seen it in our gardens all our lives at this time of year - being Scotland’s most common native evergreen tree, it has been in gardens here for well over 200 years!

Also, the thick, waxy leaves that a holly has to protect it from the cold is probably why we see it in gardens at this time of year. Incidentally, holly planted in a pot does not have the same resilience to cold.

Holly trees are generally male or female, but don’t assume that based on its name for instance ‘Golden Queen’ is actually male and ‘Golden King’ is female!

For a holly tree to produce berries it must have a mate to fertilise the flowers, but these can be different varieties so don’t worry about buying the same kind!

The most common holly is Ilex aquifolium and is found literally everywhere in Scotland, but there are well over 400 species of hollies!

If you don’t fancy red berries on your holly bush look out for Ilex aquifolium ‘Bacciflava’ with very bright yellow berries or Ilex crenata with black berries. I personally think holly berries should be red and my favourite Holly is Holly Willoughby! Happy gardening everyone!


This variety has distinct prickles on the most glorious two-tone silvery green leaves. It is one of the slower growing holly plants with small white flowers on both male and female plants, but the most fantastic showy berries on the female plant in the autumn! It is a large, bushy evergreen shrub with the leaves being broadly edged in a creamy white giving a lovely two tone effect. It does well pretty much anywhere – full sun or partial shade, sheltered or exposed – and facing any direction as well! A wonderful winter addition!